Inside the Race: Rangers can extend lead

After three straight victories, Yu Darvish will try to snap a string of two straight no-decisions against the Twins on Friday. AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers' lead in the American League West is up to three games on the Oakland A's heading into the weekend.

Send Torii Hunter a tweet --@toriihunter48 -- to thank him if you want.

Hunter, who lives in Prosper, cranked a three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth on Thursday afternoon to lift Detroit to a 7-6 victory over Oakland, keeping the A's from pulling off a stunning four-game road sweep of the Al Central frontunner.

Here's how the weekend sets up for the Rangers and A's before their three-game clash begins Monday in Oakland:

Rangers (78-55, .586, first place)

Next up: Friday-Sunday, vs. Minnesota, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington

Oppenents' record: The Twins are 57-75, 20 games back in the AL Central

The latest: The Rangers swept a three-game series at Seattle, blasting Mariners ace Felix Hernandez once again to raise his ERA to 7.57 against Texas this season. The Rangers had a winning road trip with a 4-2 record, becoming the first team in the majors to reach 40 road victories this season.

Forecast: The weekend sets up for a Rangers' sweep of Minnesota. Yu Darvish and Matt Garza both started in games lost last weekend in Chicago and should be primed and motivated to continue the club's three-game winning streak. Left-hander Travis Blackley will pitch Sunday for the Rangers, who are 2-0 so far when he starts. Predicting that the A's lose two out of three to the Rays (see below), the Rangers would have a five-game lead on Oakland heading into Monday's series opener.

Oakland A's (78-55, .564, 3 GB)

Next up: Friday-Sunday, vs. Tampa Bay, O.com Coliseum

Opponents' record: The Rays are 75-57, 3 games back in the AL East

The latest: The A's went 4-3 on a difficult road trip through Baltimore and Detroit, winning three out of four games from the Tigers. Still, Oakland lost a half game in the standings to the Rangers despite a successful road trip against a pair of contending teams.

Forecast: I'll pick the Rays to win two of three games in what should be a tight series in Oakland. Tampa Bay has David Price starting Friday's game against Oakland's Jarrod Parker. Price has lost once since July 2. Parker has also pitched well of late, going 4-0 in his past five starts. Oakland starts rookie Sonny Gray against Alex Cobb on Saturday and A.J. Griffin against Roberto Hernandez on Sunday.