Although the Texas Rangers have been in control of the AL West
for months, officially securing a playoff berth could go down to
the final week of the season.
The first-place Rangers, who have struggled mightily on the
road, look to avoid dropping four of the first five contests on
their 10-game trip Tuesday night against the Los Angeles
Texas (83-66) has been atop the division since June 1 and owned
a 10-game lead earlier this month, but has failed to bury the
competition in pursuit of its first West title since 1999.
The Rangers, who lost 7-4 to the Angels on Monday, still lead
the second-place Athletics by eight games and have a magic number
of six. They’ll have an opportunity to clinch the West before
returning home, with a four-game series in Oakland beginning
“Those guys are not going to lay down, Oakland is not going to
lay down and Seattle is not going to lay down. So we’ve got to take
care of business,” manager Ron Washington said. “They all play us
tough. Yeah, we’ve got a nice lead, but I’m not comfortable.”
Texas’ play away from Rangers Ballpark is the biggest reason for
its inability to break away from the A’s. The Rangers opened this
trip by dropping two of three to the league-worst Mariners, and
have lost eight of their last 11 road games. Most of the rough
stretch has coincided with the injury to Josh Hamilton (bruised
ribs), and there’s a chance Hamilton might not return before the
end of the regular season.
Nelson Cruz, who drove in two runs in the series opener against
Los Angeles (74-76), has been doing his best to carry the offense
in Hamilton’s absence.
He is batting .380 with five homers and nine RBIs during a
12-game hitting streak and is 2 for 6 with two homers against Ervin
Santana (16-9, 3.93 ERA), the Angels’ scheduled starter
Texas has failed to come up with clutch hits on this trip,
leaving 35 men on base and batting .200 (7 for 35) with runners in
scoring position. Scoring opportunities against Santana could be
The right-hander allowed two runs and four hits in eight innings
against Detroit on Thursday, but didn’t get much offensive help in
a 3-2, 11-inning loss. He had compiled a 3.00 ERA while winning his
previous three starts, and needs one more victory to surpass his
personal best set in 2006 and matched in ’08.
“He’s got very, very good stuff,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia
said of Santana. “He’s evolving as a pitcher as he’s maturing. He’s
definitely been a guy who’s moving to the front of the
Santana has won both of his starts against the Rangers this
season, but wasn’t particularly sharp in the last meeting July 30,
allowing seven runs – four earned – and 10 hits in six innings.
The Rangers counter with Colby Lewis (11-12, 3.84), who has won
back-to-back starts after losing his previous seven decisions.
In Wednesday’s 11-7 win over Detroit, Lewis gave up four hits,
three walks and made two fielding errors, leading to three unearned
runs among the five he allowed in total. The right-hander has not
won three consecutive starts since June 8-19.
Lewis has made a career-high 29 starts this season, but this
will be his first outing against the Angels since 2007. He is 3-1
with a 5.34 lifetime ERA in seven games versus Los Angeles.