Rangers look for improved offense vs. Orioles (Jul 18, 2017)

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles desperately need to play effectively in the current four-game series against the Texas Rangers to have much of a chance at keeping their playoff hopes alive.

So far, so good for the Orioles, who secured a much-needed 3-1 win in the opener Monday and will look to maintain that momentum heading into Tuesday night.

It is also a key series for the Rangers, who trail the Houston Astros by 16 1/2 games in the American League West. The Rangers, though, are very much alive in the wild-card race, just 2 1/2 games behind the final playoff spot. They need their bats to come alive after scoring five runs in their past three games.

“These guys are still battling,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “We’ve put runs on the board. We’ve been able to score. There have been a couple of games here where the offense has been challenged. The opportunity to score has been challenged. But these guys are still playing. We’re engaged. We’re getting excellent starting pitching.”

The Orioles are going through a tough stretch, coming off a three-game sweep over the weekend by the Chicago Cubs. Baltimore is lingering near the bottom of the American League and could be sellers at the trade deadline if the season doesn’t turn around quickly. However, the Orioles are just 4 1/2 games behind the second AL wild-card position,

“It’s tough. It’s a challenge,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. “We had our private moments, trust me. The level that we’ve tried to establish here hasn’t been that way lately, and it’s frustrating for everybody. We’re hired to do the ‘why’ part. You don’t push the blame someplace else. I always look at it like it starts with me. You don’t lose that accountability.”

Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy (8-8, 4.33 ERA) will take the mound Tuesday as the most consistent pitcher in the rotation. He leads the team in wins and ERA.

However, he appeared to be dealing with some fatigue issues just before the All-Star break. In his last outing against the Minnesota Twins on July 6, Bundy struggled, allowing six runs and five hits over five innings in a 6-4 loss.

“It wasn’t the ending I wanted, but it’s a healthy first half and I’m throwing the ball well, but sometimes it’s not going where I need to,” said Bundy, who is 1-0 and has not allowed a run in three career appearances (11 innings) against the Rangers. “Got to work on that in the second half, and that’s what I’ll do.”

Rangers right-hander Tyson Ross, (2-1, 5.33 ERA) has been dominant in his past five starts since coming off the disabled list following his recovery from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. Over that stretch, he has limited opponents to a .211 batting average.

Banister said the club is still being careful with Ross’ workload.

“He’s working his way back,” Banister said. “It’s the high-pitch innings that dictate how far we want to push guys, especially a guy like this. I don’t think we want to push him above that 100-pitch mark right now.”

Ross picked up the win July 8 against the Los Angeles Angels when he allowed one run and four hits with three strikeouts and two walks over 5 2/3 innings. However, he is 0-2 with a staggering 17.10 ERA in seven career appearances against Baltimore, allowing 19 runs in 10 innings.

Ross is looking to put those struggles behind him Tuesday, especially with the recent run of success.

“I’ve been able to put the team in a decent position in a couple of these games,” Ross said. “This is a talented squad here. With the rotation we have and the offense, it’s a good situation to be pitching in. I’m just trying to do my part.”