Rangers-Royals Preview

No team is in better position to reach the postseason than the

Texas Rangers. That’s why they appear to already be fine-tuning

their club for that eventuality.

With Josh Hamilton getting a day off, the Rangers will get one

familiar face back and could see the debut of a new one Wednesday

night against the Kansas City Royals.

Despite a 10-9 loss Tuesday night, the Rangers maintained an 8

1/2-game lead over Oakland in the AL West. Texas (74-58) is the

only team in the West above .500 and owns the largest advantage of

any division leader.

Although they missed an opportunity to extend their lead, the

Rangers have enough of a cushion that they can afford to rest

players down the stretch when necessary. Hamilton, the major league

leader with a .361 average, will sit out the series finale after

getting a shot in his sore right knee after Tuesday’s game.

“It’s not any different, there’s just more pain now than there

normally has been,” Hamilton told the Rangers’ official website.

“The key is to get it calmed down, get the right medication going

and get out there playing.”

With one All-Star getting the day off, the Rangers will activate

another as second baseman Ian Kinsler is set to come off the

disabled list Wednesday. Kinsler has been sidelined since July 27

with a strained left groin.

Texas made an acquisition for its playoff push Tuesday night,

getting outfielder Jeff Francoeur from the New York Mets hours

before the deadline for players to be eligible for a postseason

roster.

Francoeur, who fills the Rangers’ need for a right-handed hitter

off the bench, is batting .237 with 11 homers and 54 RBIs and leads

the NL with 11 outfield assists.

”I have an opportunity to go with a team that will be in the

playoffs,” Francoeur said. ”I feel comfortable going out

there.”

Tuesday’s win was the second for the Royals (56-76) in eight

meetings with the Rangers this season, and they’ll try to prevent

Texas’ Tommy Hunter (11-2, 3.66 ERA) from winning his third

straight start Wednesday.

The right-hander moved to 7-0 with a 3.16 ERA in nine starts at

home Friday, allowing three runs over 7 2-3 innings of a 7-3

victory over Oakland on Friday.

The Rangers have averaged eight runs in Hunter’s seven home

wins.

”A lot of defense and a lot of well-hit balls by teammates,”

Hunter said of his unbeaten run at home. ”We score a lot of runs,

you have to take that into consideration. There are a lot of guys

who’d have success if they had as much run support as I do. I

continue to enjoy getting it and hopefully they continue giving

it.”

Hunter hasn’t been nearly as successful in seven road starts,

going 4-2 with a 4.46 ERA.

Coming off two straight miserable outings, Bryan Bullington

(1-3, 6.00) looks to help the Royals win their first home series

against the Rangers since 2007.

Since allowing two hits over eight scoreless innings against the

Yankees for his first major league win Aug. 15, the right-hander

has posted a 13.00 ERA in two outings.

Bullington had the shortest of his four starts this season

Friday, lasting four innings and allowing a career-worst seven runs

in a 15-4 loss at Cleveland.