Rangers pursue road series win against Yankees

NEW YORK — Things are starting to pick up for the Texas Rangers on the road.

Meanwhile, things continue to be a struggle for the New York Yankees.

The Rangers can get their third straight series victory away from home Sunday afternoon when they conclude a three-game series with the slumping Yankees.

Texas is 15-20 so far on the road. In the last 11 road games, it is 7-4. The improvement outside of Arlington is occurring after a nightmarish 6-17 start in those games.

Perhaps more impressive for the Rangers is the caliber of opponents. The Rangers took two of three from American League West-leading Houston and swept the National League East-leading Washington Nationals.

After an 8-1 victory Saturday afternoon, the Rangers also have won 10 of their last 15 games.

Carlos Gomez homered and scored on a wild pitch. In his last eight games since returning from a hamstring injury, Gomez is batting .333 (10-for-30) with six homers and 16 RBIs.

“He has been very impressive,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “He is back to the mode of looking for the ball up and driving it. It has been very effective.”

Elvis Andrus also had an RBI single and is hitting .333 (9-for-27). Adrian Beltre is 36 hits shy of 3,000 after getting two hits Saturday.

The pitching is slightly improved in recent games. The Rangers have a 4.20 ERA, but in the last three games their pitchers have allowed six earned runs in 27 2/3 innings.

As for the Yankees, they homered in their 13th straight home game and raised their total to 117 when Aaron Judge hit his major league-leading 26th homer.

Judge is batting .328 and has reached base in 26 straight games. He also is 5-for-20 on this homestand as New York’s slump is now nine losses in 11 games after a six-game winning streak.

Others are slumping after the Yankees mustered five hits Saturday. Aaron Hicks is in a 2-for-18 skid, Matt Holliday has four hits in his last 27 at-bats, Starlin Castro is 4-for-20 during the homestand and Didi Gregorius is in a 3-for-19 slide.

“When we get opportunities, we’re not cashing in,” Hicks said.

Besides the hitting going south, the pitching is spotty at times and no Yankees pitcher is struggling like Tyler Clippard. He allowed four runs in the ninth inning Saturday, making it 11 earned runs in his last seven outings.

“We’re just not swinging as well as we did before,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “That’s the importance of pitching. Hitting’s going to come and go at times and that’s where pitching allows you to win games.”

After Yu Darvish struck out 10 in seven innings Friday and Austin Biebens-Dirkx pitched seven sharp innings Saturday, Nick Martinez gets the start for Texas on Sunday.

Martinez is 2-3 with a 4.33 ERA in 11 outings (10 starts). He is 1-0 with a 1.72 ERA in his last three appearances and is coming off one of his finest outings.

On Tuesday, Martinez held the Toronto Blue Jays to one run and two hits in 6 1/3 innings. He retired 18 of 23 hitters and never allowed multiple baserunners in a 6-1 victory.

“I think Nick has handled every situation that we’ve put him in over the last three years about as good as any pitcher we’ve had,” Banister said. “He takes the ball whenever we ask him to pitch, whether it’s out of the bullpen, starting role. He’s done a tremendous job.”

Before joining the Rangers, Martinez played mostly second base at Fordham University in the Bronx. Since joining the Rangers, he has fared well against the Yankees, going 1-1 with a 3.91 ERA in four starts.

Martinez was the winning pitcher in a 15-4 Rangers victory in New York on May 23, 2015.

Michael Pineda takes a 7-3 record and a 3.56 ERA into Sunday’s start and tries to get his first career victory against Texas. He is 0-3 with a 4.35 ERA in five starts vs. the Rangers, including an 0-2 record and 4.26 ERA in three starts at Yankee Stadium against them.

Pineda last pitched in an 8-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. He did not get a decision after allowing three runs (one earned) and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Pineda is one of the AL’s top home pitchers with a 6-1 record and a 1.92 ERA in eight starts in New York.