OAKLAND -- The A's have the best record in the American League at 13-5 after Sunday's 4-1 win over the Houston Astros, and now their hottest competition comes to town for a three-game set starting Monday night.

The Texas Rangers, the team that many believe is Oakland's chief rival for the A.L. West title, had won five consecutive games before getting mauled 16-2 Sunday by the Chicago White Sox.

Is this series a big deal? Well, it depends on whom you ask.

"Anytime you play a team in the division and a team you know is going to be around at the end (of the season), it's big," said shortstop Jed Lowrie, who singled twice, walked and scored two runs Sunday. "You have to assume (the A's and Rangers) are going to be close at the end of the season. If that's the case, you want to have as many wins as you can on your side."

Catcher John Jaso, on the other hand, said the series with Texas is not a big deal, not with over five months left in the season.

"When it's neck-and-neck at the end of the season, then it's a big deal," Jaso said. "But you aren't going to change any preparations right now."

Right-hander Jesse Chavez turned in another strong effort to lead the A's on Sunday, gaining his first win after three no-decisions with six innings of one-run baseball.

Chavez has a 1.38 ERA and has allowed exactly one run in each of his four starts. He began the season with a 5.48 career ERA.

But injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin opened up a spot in the rotation, and the 30-year-old Chavez has fit in like custom-tailored suit.


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"All season he has done a great job," said third baseman Josh Donaldson, who knocked in three runs against the Astros with a two-run homer in the first and a double in the seventh. "He moves the ball, cuts it, sinks it and has other pitches he can throw for strikes."

Chavez wasn't especially pleased with how he pitched Sunday. He walked three after yielding just two bases on balls in his first three starts over 20 innings.

"It was one of those days," he said. "You'd like all games to go like the first three, but they don't. The only thing I had today was my sinker. The two-seamer was flat."

Now the A's get ready for Rangers' ace Yu Darvish, who starts Monday in a game that could set the tone for the next 10 days, during which the A's and Rangers play six times, three games apiece in Oakland and Texas.

Darvish is 1-0 with an 0.82 ERA and 19 base runners allowed in 22 innings. But he is 1-6 lifetime against the A's -- the six losses coming consecutively. Subtract those seven decisions, and he is 29-12 against everyone else.

  • Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes departed in the seventh inning with a bruised right heel. He said after the game in English that he was feeling "OK" and that "maybe tomorrow" he would be able to play. Manager Bob Melvin said he thought Cespedes would be back Monday or Tuesday.

  • Outfielder Sam Fuld, designated for assignment last weekend by the A's, was claimed on waivers Sunday by the Minnesota Twins.

  • Donaldson, who had two doubles and his fourth homer of the season, is 20 for 56 (.357) while hitting safely in 12 of his last 13 games. Sunday was the second time in Donaldson's career that he's had three extra-base hits in a game.

  • When Jaso threw out Jose Altuve trying to steal third base in the first inning, it was the first time an A's catcher had caught a base runner stealing this season. Opponents were 13 for 13 until then.

  • The A's were charged with two more errors, giving them an A.L.-worst 20 in the first 18 games this year. Melvin said the club has been lucky the leaky defense hasn't been more costly. Oakland has made errors in each of the last nine games but is 7-2 in that stretch.

  • Josh Reddick doubled once in four at-bats and finished the Houston series with seven hits, pushing his average to .204.

    For more on the A's, see John Hickey's Inside the A's blog at ibabuzz.com/athletics.