Struggles at home were costing the Texas Rangers dearly in the playoff race but their recent reversal has them back in the thick of it.
The Rangers look to extend their season high home win streak to seven games in Sunday’s series finale with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Texas (58-57) was 16-28 at home after a 1-12 stretch was punctuated by a 21-5 defeat to the New York Yankees on July 28. The Rangers were hitting .221 and averaging 3.2 runs over that stretch with the idea of postseason baseball fading.
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They’ve changed in a big way, scoring 6.4 runs per game with a .311 batting average while winning nine of their last 10 and six in a row in Arlington.
Texas had 14 hits with three homers in Saturday’s 12-4 win over Tampa Bay (58-58) to move 1 1/2 games back of the Los Angeles Angels for the AL’s second wild-card spot. The club also trails West-leading Houston by four.
"We know how quick you can lose or make up ground," first baseman Mitch Moreland told MLB’s official website. "That’s something, when you’ve played for a couple years and get to be a part of it, you know to take your time.
"There’s no reason to panic in those situations. We’ve been able to do that the last couple of games and hopefully we can continue it the rest of the year."
Shin-soo Choo came a triple shy of the cycle while driving in three runs Saturday, but he’s still batting .245 on the season – 34 points lower than his career average.
Choo is hitting .381 in six games against the Rays this year.
The Rangers’ Yovani Gallardo (8-9, 3.33 ERA) takes the mound after needing 100 pitches to toss 5 2-3 scoreless innings and not figuring in the decision of Tuesday’s 3-2 loss at Minnesota. The right-hander had an 8.53 ERA while going 1-1 over his previous four starts.
He permitted four runs in 5 1-3 innings of an 8-2 loss at Tampa Bay on May 8.
The Rays, two games back of the Angels in the playoff chase, have lost 16 of their last 22 on the road.
They’re hoping to gain a boost from Drew Smyly (0-1, 2.70), who is returning from a torn labrum in his left shoulder that’s sidelined him since a 2-0 loss at Boston on May 5.
"I feel very anxious," Smyly said. "I feel ready. My arm feels ready. I haven’t had any pain throwing."
Smyly, however, gave up 16 runs with 17 strikeouts and six walks in 14 innings over four minor-league rehab starts.
"When you’re hurt for an extended period of time, it’s a tough mental game," Smyly said. "It wears and tears on you and it’s hard to get that out of your head. Protecting your arm, babying it, so to speak. But sooner or later you have to get over it."
He won both of his starts against Texas last season, yielding an unearned run while striking out 14 over 13 2-3 innings.
Smyly has also limited Choo to 1 for 13 with six strikeouts.