Twins-Rangers Preview

While a combined no-hitter eluded the Texas Rangers in their
series opener with the Minnesota Twins, it’s looking increasingly
unlikely that the AL West will slip out of their grasp.

The Twins, meanwhile, hope to extend their own division lead as
the four-game set continues Tuesday night in Arlington, where
Minnesota’s Carl Pavano looks to improve on some troubling recent
results.

Only a ninth-inning single by Joe Mauer prevented the Twins
(72-53) from being no-hit by Rich Harden and three relievers in
Monday’s 4-0 loss – a feat that would have been even more
impressive considering Minnesota leads the majors with a .280
batting average.

“That’s baseball,” said Harden, who was on a limited pitch count
after coming off the disabled list. “We had (Neftali) Feliz, who’s
one of the best closers in the game facing Mauer, who’s one of the
best hitters in the game. That’s the way it goes.”

The Rangers (70-54) settled for widening their edge on
second-place Oakland to 8 1/2 games as they chase their first
division title since 1999. Texas has recovered from a four-game
losing streak by winning three of four, with Josh Hamilton totaling
eight hits and eight RBIs in that stretch.

Minnesota has still won eight of 11 and 21 of 28 to take a 4
1/2-game lead on Chicago in the AL Central, with Mauer leading the
surge. The reigning AL MVP is batting .465 with 23 RBIs in his last
24 games.

“You definitely don’t want to get no-hit,” Mauer said. “It’s
nice to get a hit up there but we want runs.”

The Twins also want Pavano (15-8, 3.52 ERA) to become the second
AL pitcher to 16 wins, but the right-hander has run into some
problems lately.

Pavano allowed 15 hits – the most in 2010 by any pitcher in a
single start – and seven runs in six-plus innings of an 11-0 loss
to the White Sox on Thursday, the fourth straight start where his
combined hits and walks have totaled at least 11.

Opponents are hitting .373 against him in four August outings
after posting a .238 average against Pavano through the end of
July.

“Maybe I’m getting a little too much of the plate and the ball’s
up a little bit or maybe I’m being a little too predictable as far
as my pitch sequences,” Pavano said. “It’s something I’m going to
have to revisit and look at and make some adjustments, that’s for
sure.”

Pavano beat the Rangers with seven strong innings in an 8-3 win
May 29, but he’s posted a 25.20 ERA in two short starts at
Arlington, both last year.

Texas’ Colby Lewis (9-10, 3.37) certainly hopes the Rangers can
rough up Pavano again.

Lewis has a 3.20 ERA in his last six starts, but he’s 0-5 in
that stretch – primarily because Texas has scored a total of four
runs for him. The right-hander hasn’t gotten any run support in his
last two outings.

“Sometimes you get pitchers that go out there and they don’t
have the luxury of getting runs,” manager Ron Washington said.
“Colby lately has been that guy.”

Lewis suffered a similar result at Minnesota on May 28, working
six solid innings in a 2-1 defeat. The Rangers were swept in that
three-game series at Target Field, but they’ve been much better at
home, going 40-23.