Orioles-Rangers Preview

Taking advantage of weaker teams is the easiest way for the

Texas Rangers to strengthen their hold on first place in the AL

West.

No club presents a better opportunity for that than the major

league-worst Baltimore Orioles.

Texas looks to win a series opener for the first time in five

tries when it begins a four-game set against the Orioles on

Thursday night.

After losing to last-place Cleveland on Monday, the Rangers

(50-34) bounced back to win the next two and have split the first

six contests on a 10-game homestand. Michael Young hit a two-run

homer and Julio Borbon delivered a key RBI single to help Texas

rally for a 4-3 victory Wednesday night.

The Rangers stretched their lead in the West to a season-high 5

1/2 games over the Angels.

Josh Hamilton extended his home hitting streak to 27 games, the

second-longest in club history behind Al Oliver’s 30-game run in

1981. Hamilton is batting .350 (14 for 40) in his last nine games

against Baltimore.

Texas swept a two-game series from the Orioles (25-59) at home

in May, scoring 17 runs and collecting 31 hits. The Rangers have

won eight of 13 versus Baltimore, batting .320 with 27 homers and

25 doubles.

No Ranger should be happier to see baseball’s worst team than

Vladimir Guerrero, who is hitting .354 with seven home runs and 22

RBIs in his last 12 meetings. Guerrero, though, is 1 for 17 against

Thursday’s scheduled starter Jeremy Guthrie.

Guerrero and fellow All-Star Ian Kinsler sat out Wednesday but

are expected back in Thursday’s lineup.

“When you play baseball as much as these guys do sometimes one

day’s all you need,” manager Ron Washington said. “I tried as hard

as I could to keep them out of the whole game because a whole day

off means a lot to a baseball player.”

The Orioles have lost six of seven – dropping a season-worst 34

games under .500 – and are the only team in the majors with less

than 10 road wins. Baltimore is coming off three straight losses at

Detroit during which it was 8 for 35 with runners in scoring

position while its starters compiled a 6.75 ERA.

“We can’t worry about our record,” said interim manager Juan

Samuel, who is 10-20 since replacing Dave Trembley. “We can only

worry about the next game.”

Starting for the Rangers will be Tommy Hunter (5-0, 1.98), who

continued his impressive season with another strong performance in

a 3-1 win over the White Sox on Saturday. He gave up one run and

nine singles over seven-plus innings on his 24th birthday.

The right-hander has won a club record five straight home games

to start the season and is 11-4 with a 3.51 ERA in 17 career starts

in Arlington.

The Rangers have won all six of Hunter’s starts this season,

providing him with an average of 9.6 runs.

Guthrie (3-10, 4.64) looks to avoid taking over sole possession

of the major league lead in losses. The right-hander is 0-6 with a

6.17 ERA in seven starts since beating Oakland on May 25 and is

coming off one of his worst outings of the year.

Guthrie was tagged for six runs and a season-high nine hits over

four-plus innings in a 9-3 loss at Boston on Saturday.

Guthrie, though, has fared well against Texas, going 3-0 with a

2.89 ERA in six starts.