Rangers-Indians Preview

Nelson Cruz’s torrid hitting has helped the Texas Rangers get

off to their best start in 12 years.

Cruz and the Rangers look to complete a three-game sweep of the

Cleveland Indians and win their eighth straight between the two as

the teams meet Thursday afternoon at Progressive Field.

Cruz hit his sixth homer in Texas’ 6-2 win over Cleveland (2-6)

on Wednesday. The right fielder has hit safely in every game he’s

played, and he is batting .414 with 12 RBIs.

Cruz, who homered 33 times last season, has two home runs in

this series. He gave Texas (5-3) a 4-0 lead in the third inning and

the Rangers added two more runs in the eighth after Michael

Brantley hit a ground-rule double in the sixth to cut the lead to

two.

“Cruz hit 33 last year,” said manager Ron Washington, whose

team is off to its best eight-game start since 1998 when it started

5-3. “All he’s doing is showing it wasn’t a fluke.

Cruz is the first player with six homers after eight games since

Alex Rodriguez did it for the New York Yankees in 2007.

Texas has won seven in a row against Cleveland – all at

Progressive Field. The Indians have been outscored 50-19 in those

games and held to two or fewer runs in four of five games overall.

Shin-Soo Choo had two of his team’s five hits Wednesday.

Cleveland was 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position

Wednesday to drop to 5 for 31 over the losing streak to Texas.

Even the return of Grady Sizemore from a two-game absence due to

a sore back didn’t help. He went 1 for 3 and struck out twice.

Sizemore is looking to bounce back after a disappointing 2009 in

which he hit .248 and finished with 18 homers and 64 RBIs. He’s

batting .280 through the first six games, but he also has struck

out 10 times in 25 at-bats.

David Huff (0-1, 1.50 ERA) hopes for more support from his

offense than in his first start of the season. He gave up four runs

over six innings against Detroit on Friday, but only one was earned

in the 5-2 loss. An error by Jhonny Peralta in the fifth led to the

three unearned runs.

The left-hander, who made 23 starts in his rookie season in

2009, has never faced the Rangers.

Texas will counter with Matt Harrison (0-0, 1.50), who gave up

one run and six hits in six innings before the bullpen squandered a

two-run ninth-inning lead in a 4-3 loss to Seattle on Saturday.

“I was excited but under control,” he told the Rangers’ official

Web site. “I couldn’t locate my offspeed (pitches) early, and that

got me in trouble. But as the game went on, I got my release point

down and started getting the ball over.”

The left-hander made his only start against the Indians in 2008,

giving up five runs and seven hits in 3 2-3 innings of a 7-5

loss.