The Texas Rangers have been playing better of late despite a rash of injuries and having to rely on unproven players and an unsteady bullpen.
The Boston Red Sox have had their hands full this weekend in Arlington, even as they rallied to beat the Rangers 6-5 on Saturday to win their second game in a row and secure at least a split of the four-game series.
Sunday’s series finale will see left-hander pitcher Chris Sale (2-1, 2.14 ERA) take the mound for the Red Sox to oppose right-hander Doug Fister (1-2, 2.88).
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Texas has played well enough in two of the past three nights to beat the Red Sox, who came into the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex on Thursday sporting the best record in baseball. And if those two showings haven’t provided some hope for Rangers’ fans, the news from the disabled list should.
The Rangers (13-22) will get back two parts of their opening-day infield in the coming week. Second baseman Rougned Odor, out since April 9 with a strained left hamstring, began a rehabilitation assignment as the designated hitter with Double-A Frisco on Saturday night.
“If all goes well, we’ll start the process of getting Odor on the field, whether it’s Sunday or Monday,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said. “Play up to five innings, seven innings the first night, see how it goes, see how he feels coming out of that. Then we’ll progress to the next stage. At some point, we’ll make a decision if he needs to go a complete nine or back-to-back games.”
Third baseman Adrian Beltre, who is on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, has been taking batting practice and fielding ground balls. He is not ready for game action, but when he is, it won’t be in the minors.
“I don’t think Adrian has been on a rehab assignment since I have been here,” Banister said. “I think he’s pretty practiced at swinging the bat.”
The Red Sox (24-9) have maintained their hold on first place in the American League East standings despite a prolonged slump by centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (.183 batting average) and a lack of home runs by outfielder Andrew Benintendi. He has one homer in 30 games this season after belting 20 in 2017.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Saturday that he sees signs that Benintendi’s power outage won’t be an issue much longer.
“With time he’s going to start getting his pitches and he’s not going to miss them,” Cora told the Boston Herald about Benintendi. “He’s taking his walks. He’s not expanding.
“They’re pitching him differently than he did in spring training. Every pitch was up in the zone and in the inner third of the plate and he didn’t miss it. He made a good adjustment last week going the other way, hitting line drives the other way, which is a start.”
Benintendi almost hit one out of the park Saturday, missing a home run by about a foot in the ninth inning when his fly ball off Rangers closer Keone Kela hit off wall. He ended up with a standup triple and scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Hanley Ramirez.
Sale (2-1, 2.14 ERA) has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his seven starts this season. He is 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA in four road starts this season and has limited opponents to a .188 batting average in those outings.
Sale made one start versus Texas last season, earning a win on May 24 at Fenway Park after allowing three earned runs over 7 1/3 innings. He is 5-2 with a 3.34 ERA in 12 career appearances (eight starts) against the Rangers.
Sunday’s start will be the sixth this season for Fister (1-2, 2.88) and his third since returning from the disabled list April 25. He has no record and a 1.59 ERA in his two starts since coming back and he will be pitching on his normal four days of rest.
He has gone 2-4 with a 4.36 ERA in eight career starts against the Red Sox, but has not started against Boston since 2013.