(AP) — 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.