The A's began last season 20-20, then fell eight games under .500 on June 1 before embarking on a monumental comeback to win the American League West. A 72-38 burst to finish the season gave them the division by one game over the Rangers.
After Monday's 5-1 victory over Texas, Oakland once again finds itself at 20-20. As the A's head into the second of this three-game home series against their division rival, manager Bob Melvin is hoping his club doesn't have to rely on another late-season rally.
"You don't want to fall back on that crutch, too, because then you say it's no big deal and find yourself 10 games back again," Melvin said. "To be able to duplicate that is difficult. We need to play with some urgency and put ourselves in position where we don't have to do that again."
The A's now trail the Rangers by five games after snapping Texas' four-game winning streak behind a strong performance from starter A.J. Griffin on Monday night. Oakland had gone 7-16 over its past 23 games, and its starters' ERA of 5.17 was fourth-highest mark in the AL.
"I think it's more about they're playing well and we haven't played as well coming into this series," Melvin said. "We're home now, and we like to think this is a good place for us. They're probably playing better than we are now, but it's time to start playing better and turn the tables. There's probably no better team to play at this point to try to get things right than these guys."
Melvin will hand the ball to Bartolo Colon as the A's try to clinch a series win.
Colon, who will oppose Derek Holland, has hit a rough patch after going 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA in his first four starts. The veteran right-hander has issued only one walk this season but sports an 8.22 ERA over his past three outings.
Holland (3-2, 2.54 ERA) has found success in part by limiting home runs. Last year, the left-hander allowed 1.64 per nine innings, the third-highest rate in the AL. This year, that rate is down to 0.36 per nine innings, the fifth-best in the league.
"I'm still throwing a lot of strikes and not doing anything different, I'm just executing pitches better," Holland said. "I'm not paying attention to giving up home runs. I'm making sure I throw strikes and not walk people."
Now Holland is heading to a ballpark where he has done some of his finest work. He is 2-2 with a 2.97 ERA in five starts and two relief appearances at the O.co Coliseum, giving him the eighth-best ERA by a Rangers pitcher with at least 30 innings there.
In eight starts and four relief appearances against the A's overall, Holland is 4-2 with a 2.64 ERA. That's the fifth-lowest ERA by a Rangers pitcher -- and 13th-lowest by any active pitcher -- with at least 50 innings against Oakland.
"I've had fairly good success here in recent years," Holland said. "Last year I did pretty well. But I look at it as a new beginning. I can't think of the past, I want to set the tone for the future. They have a good ballclub. They won the AL West last year. We have to go out, get that title and bring it back to Texas."
Rangers: Murphy hurting but hitting
Outfielder David Murphy went 1-for-2 on Monday, extending his hitting streak to eight games. Murphy doesn't have more than one hit in any of those contests but still is 8-for-22 (.364) with three doubles and two home runs during that stretch. His season average has climbed to .205.
On the other hand, he is playing with a sore and bruised tailbone area after running into the left field wall on Saturday in Houston.
"It's still hurts. but it's better," Murphy said. "It's just another something you have to deal with over the course of a 162-game season."
Murphy got an early break when Jeff Baker pinch-hit for him in the eighth inning.
A's: Cespedes leaves game early
• Yoenis Cespedes got off to a good start on Monday, homering in the third inning to snap a 1-for-20 slump. But he ended up exiting the game in the fifth with what the team called a stomach illness.
Cespedes went out to center field before the top of the fifth inning and was warming up when he was called back to the dugout. Michael Taylor entered the game in right field, with Brandon Moss shifting to center.
• John Jaso went 2-for-4 with an RBI as the designated hitter and leadoff man on Monday. He entered the game hitting .182 (6-for-33) with a .325 on-base percentage as a DH, compared to .284 (19-for-67) with a .333 OBP as a catcher.
• Colon posted a 2.40 ERA in two starts against the Rangers last season
• Adrian Beltre is 18-for-57 with five home runs against Colon. Only the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez has more homers off Colon (eight).
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.