The Week Ahead: A's, Cardinals

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers open a new week needing a win -- in a bad way.

They've lost six in a row and they've done it in a painful way, scoring eight runs in those losses, making it particularly hard to watch. The losing streak has come against two teams -- Cleveland and Toronto -- who had losing records.

The schedule gets much more difficult for the Rangers this week with a four-game home series against American League West-leading Oakland and on the road this weekend at St. Louis as Texas returns to the site where it lost the 2011 World Series.

Here's what to watch for:

Streaking A's: The A's have produced another one of their hot stretches, winning 22 of their last 29 games to take over first place in the AL West. The A's were 7 1/2 games behind the Rangers when they had an off day on May 15. Oakland leads the division by three games entering Monday's series opener. It's the A's largest lead in the AL West since 2006.

Dominating the West: Oakland is 21-10 against AL West opponents and 21-19 against everyone else. The A's have feasted on Houston with a 9-0 record. They are 3-3 against the Rangers. Oakland's offense has been much better against division opponents. They've averaged 5.74 runs per game against AL West teams compared to 3.75 runs per game against the rest of the big leagues.

All about the Cs: The A's are 28-9 when outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Coco Crisp are both in the lineup. Crisp, who was on the disabled list in May, is in the top 10 in the AL in on-base average (.386), runs (42) and stolen bases (13). Cespedes, on the DL in April, is the A's best offensive player with 13 home runs and 36 RBIs in 55 games. Oakland is 117-65 when Cespedes is in the lineup.

Cards best in baseball: There's no doubt that the St. Louis Cardinals made a great baseball decision by letting Albert Pujols walk for the Los Angeles Angels' overpriced contract after winning the 2011 World Series. The Cardinals still made the playoffs in 2012 and they have baseball's best record at 44-25 entering Monday, holding a 2 1/2-game lead on the Cincinnati Reds. The Redbirds are 19-12 at home.

Wainwright waits: A possible marquee pitching matchup awaits on Sunday night -- weather permitting -- when the Rangers' Yu Darvish, who has seven victories but is winless in his last five starts, takes on Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright, who is baseball's first 10-game winner. Wainwright is 10-3 and sports a 2.18 ERA.