OAKLAND, Calif. — The trade deadline arrives in 13 days, and the Texas Rangers have proven the past two years to be anything but a team that sits out when a trip to the postseason is on the line.
They’ve done their homework on the starting pitchers who could be available at the end of the month, and any sign of weakness in the rotation could lead general manager Jon Daniels to pull off another big deal.
If there’s no deal to be found, Neftali Feliz could be ready to start a big-league game by early next month.
Roy Oswalt, though, could end the trade speculation and send Feliz to the bullpen with a few more starts like the one he delivered Tuesday.
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The right-hander cooled off Oakland over 6 1/3 innings, allowing only three hits, and Craig Gentry used his speed to make three critical plays early on to lead the Rangers to a 6-1 victory.
Oswalt’s fifth start of the season was his best, as he changed speeds effectively and pitched inside against a team that had scored 24 runs the past three games.
He believes he is closing in on the level he has pitched at throughout an All-Star career. He will make two more starts before the July 31 trade deadline.
“I’m getting better,” Oswalt said. “Overall, I felt pretty well. You keep building off the good ones. The more you throw, the better you’re going to be.”Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton hit solo homers as the Rangers scored more than four runs for the first time since June 30.
The victory allowed the Rangers to maintain their 5 1/2-game lead over Los Angeles in the American League West and helped stop the hottest team in baseball.
The loss was only the second of the month for the A’s.
“It was important to come in and play the game the way we’re capable of playing,” Hamilton said. “It’s was good. It’s a quick series, but we want to win the two games and move on.”
Gentry made a diving, run-saving catch to end the second inning and sparked a two-out rally in the third with an infield hit. He went to third on a throwing error by Bartolo Colon and scored on Elvis Andrus’ single two batters later.
Beltre opened the fourth with his 17th homer, Michael Young followed with a single and Nelson Cruz doubled. After David Murphy bounced out, Mike Napoli delivered an RBI single for a 3-0 lead.
Gentry then beat out a squeeze bunt that drove in Cruz.
“That’s what speed does for you,” manager Ron Washington said. “He puts the balls in play and hustles down the line and made things happen.”
Oswalt (3-1) survived a double and hit batsman to start the second with a double play and Gentry’s catch. Those two at-bats started a stretch in which Oswalt would retire 13 of 14 before Josh Reddick homered on the first pitch of the seventh inning.
Oswalt would retire the next hitter before exiting after 103 pitches and only three hits allowed. He struck out six, including Yoenis Cespedes to end his night.
“I really didn’t get tired tonight,” said Oswalt, who threw 103 pitches. “I really wanted to get through the seventh. I knew I was getting close to 100 pitches. I was able to get fairly deep.”
Oswalt believes that his body of work is decent enough, not including the nine earned runs he allowed July 3 against the White Sox in Chicago. He rebounded July 8 by allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings against the Twins.
The A’s, though, weren’t particularly impressed Tuesday.
“I don’t feel he was very good,” Reddick said. “It felt like we had a lot of swing and misses. We had a pretty good go at him. We saw a lot of pitches early. Just bad swings in front of the ball. I don’t feel like his stuff was very far out there.”
The A’s put together a threat against Robbie Ross and Alexi Ogando after Oswalt exited, with the tying running batting twice, but Ogando got Kurt Suzuki and Brandon Inge to end the inning.
Hamilton would get back the run Oakland scored in the seventh with a leadoff homer to start the eighth. Hamilton, who struck out in his first three at-bats, has 28 homers this season, tied with Adam Dunn of the White Sox for most in the majors.
He then added a sacrifice fly in the ninth to raise his MLB-leading RBI total to 78 after Mike Adams survived a scare in the eighth. Oakland loaded the bases with one out, but Adams caught Cespedes looking, and Brandon Moss popped up to end the threat.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST