Game of the day: Texas at Oakland, 10:05 p.m. Rangers starter C.J. Wilson created a minor stir this week when he criticized Oakland’s stadium and its fans: “I hate pitching there,” Wilson said according to “The mound sucks, the fans suck. There’s no fans there.” Wilson (10-5) will be going for his first career win in Oakland on Friday when he pitches the opener of this three-game set. Texas enters this series two games ahead of the Angels in the American League West, and will move from Oakland to Los Angeles for a huge four-game series beginning Monday. Right-hander Brandon McCarthy (5-5) will start for Oakland, which has won the last five games McCarthy has pitched.

Other game to watch: Tampa Bay at New York Yankees, 7:05 p.m. The Rays have essentially fallen out of the race for both the American League East and the wild card, but the pitching matchup for the series opener makes this game relevant. Yankees starter CC Sabathia (16-6) is coming off his worst start of the year Saturday against Boston, but Sabathia has won 13 of his last 16 starts and has allowed two earned runs in 17 innings this year against the Rays. Tampa Bay left-hander David Price (9-10) has just one win since June 22, but the former No. 1 overall draft pick has the stuff to be dominant on any given night.

Games you should have seen:

New York Yankees 6, Los Angeles Angels 5 . Russell Branyan hit a three-run home run off Mariano Rivera in the top of the ninth inning, but the future Hall of Fame closer got the last two outs to narrowly preserve a Yankees win. Robinson Cano staked New York to a 6-2 lead with a grand slam in the bottom of the seventh. An inning earlier, Curtis Granderson homered to erase an early 2-0 deficit and tie the game at 2. Alberto Callaspo also went deep for Los Angeles, which fell two games behind division-leading Texas. New York is now just one game behind idle Boston in the American League East.

Detroit 4, Cleveland 3. The Tigers salvaged the final game of this crucial three-game series, avoiding a sweep while increasing their lead atop the American League Central to three games instead of seeing it slip to one. Detroit right-hander Justin Verlander became the majors’ first 17-game winner, allowing three runs on three hits in seven innings. Verlander struck out 10 and walked three. Alex Avila and Wilson Betemit each had RBI hits for Detroit, helping the Tigers to an early 4-0 lead that proved to be enough for Verlander. Relievers Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde combined for two perfect innings to secure the win.

Stat you should know: 1997, 2008. The years in which Nationals right-hander Livan Hernandez (with Florida) and Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels were named World Series MVPs. Along with Red Sox starter Josh Beckett (in 2003 with Florida), Hernandez and Hamels are two of only three active pitchers to win the award, and they are the scheduled starters Friday night when the Nationals visit the Phillies.

Star of the night: Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto tossed seven scoreless innings Thursday, allowing three hits and two walks while striking out nine in Cincinnati’s 2-1 win over Colorado. Cueto’s ERA sits at an impressive 1.94 through 18 starts this season.

Chatter: “I’d rather pitch here than in Oakland. I like the fans here a lot better, so you don’t have to worry about me signing there after the season. They hate me there anyways so it doesn’t matter. The players on their team hate me, whatever; I don’t care.” – Rangers left-hander C.J. Wilson, expounding on his distaste for Oakland.