The AL West-leading Texas Rangers thankfully don’t have to face Felix Hernandez anymore. The last-place club in the division, however, might not make things any easier on them.
The Rangers have dropped 10 of 16 matchups with the Oakland Athletics, though left-hander Martin Perez could give them an edge in Tuesday night’s opener of a three-game series.
Texas (80-69) is trying to hold off Houston and Los Angeles in the West. The Rangers lost two of three at home in their final series with Seattle over the weekend, dropping to 0-5 against Hernandez with Sunday’s 9-2 defeat.
Manager Jeff Banister wanted his team to use its final off day to get away from the game before this six-game trip.
"Give yourself an opportunity to have a mental break, not an exhale moment but a mental break," Banister said. "An opportunity to clear the head and reset the trap if you will and be ready to go on Tuesday."
The weekend series did nothing to diminish the confidence of the Rangers, who went 7-3 on a homestand that included a four-game sweep of the second-place Astros.
”It was a good homestand for us. We’ve played good baseball, we’re in a great position,” slugger Mitch Moreland said. ”We’re right where we want to be, feeding off of each other, and just going to continue to try to do that, and make the road trip go like the homestand was.”
The homestand began with Texas taking two of three from Oakland (64-86) for the Rangers’ first series victory of the season over the Athletics after losing the previous five meetings.
Perez (3-5, 4.96 ERA) can add to the woes of a team that’s an AL-worst 14-28 against left-handed starters in his first 2015 start versus Oakland. He is 3-4 with a 5.59 ERA in seven career starts against the Athletics, but 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in three on the road with a three-hit shutout in his last one April 23, 2014.
Perez gave up one run in seven innings Wednesday to earn a 14-3 win over Houston.
Oakland slugger Josh Reddick is a .220 hitter against left-handers and 3 for 14 against Perez.
The Rangers will also face a lefty in Sean Nolin (1-1, 3.24), who earned his first big-league win over them Sept. 12 by allowing one run in 5 2-3 innings of a 5-3 victory. Elvis Andrus doubled twice in three at-bats against Nolin in that contest and Mike Napoli homered.
Texas fell to 25-28 against lefty starters with that defeat before winning four of its next five such matchups.
Who catches Nolin is in question. Josh Phegley has a concussion and Stephen Vogt returned from a two-week absence due to a groin injury as the designated hitter in Sunday’s 5-1 loss at Houston. Carson Blair caught the last three games and Bryan Anderson has been recalled from the minors and could make his season debut.
Texas’ Prince Fielder is hitting a team-best .350 in the season series while Shin-Soo Choo is at .327.
Reddick is batting .442 with three homers and 15 RBIs against Texas in 2015 while Vogt is at .441 with three homers and 11 RBIs.