Brewers standing in way of Rangers' home field quest
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The only thing left on the table for the Texas Rangers in the regular season is the best record in the American League.
That quest for home-field advantage through the AL postseason took a hit in the series opener against the lowly Milwaukee Brewers.
The fourth-place team in the National League Central rocked the AL West champs 8-3 Monday night.
The loss knocked Texas (92-65) a half-game back of red-hot Boston (92-64) in the race for the top mark in the Junior Circuit. The Rangers are a half-game up on Cleveland (91-65).
The Red Sox take an 11-game winning streak into Tuesday night's game with the New York Yankees. Texas and the Brewers square off in the second of three games at Globe Life Park.
Rangers left fielder Carlos Gomez did his part in the series opener against his former club. Gomez, who went 3-for-4 and drove in two runs, is making the most of his second chance since being waived by Houston.
"It's a big opportunity," he said. "They signed me and gave me basically the everyday job. Just go to left field. You're my left fielder. How I started in Houston, and then to come here and lead off and play left field, they saw something the other team didn't see. It's a big opportunity. It's a blessing to be on a winning team."
The Brewers know all too well what Gomez can do. He was a two-time All-Star (2013-14) with Milwaukee before being traded to the Astros last season.
"With his season, I think they're trying to get to confident place," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "It looks like they're getting him there, so he's going to be an important player for them in the playoffs."
Texas has to deal with Jonathan Villar, who homered twice Monday and drove in a career-high five. The second baseman had been 3-for335 this month before stinging the Rangers with three extra-base hits.
"I needed it because this month has been a little bit bad," Villar said. "I want to finish strong."
The Rangers, only 5-6 in their last 11, send struggling right-hander A.J. Griffin (7-4, 4.94 ERA) to the mound. Griffin matched the shortest outing of his career on Sept. 20 by lasting just 1 2/3 innings and allowing three earned runs against the Los Angeles Angels.
He has gone 3-3 with a 6.32 ERA over his last nine starts.
If anything, Texas hasn't been hurt by Griffin's ineffectiveness. The club has won four of five and eight of his last 11 starts since July 24. Griffin is facing the Brewers for the first time since 2013.
Milwaukee counters with Jimmy Nelson (8-15, 4.50) in his 32nd start of the season. The right-hander last started Sept. 21 against Pittsburgh in a 4-1 loss, going five innings and allowing four runs on six hits.
He was 5-3 with a 2.88 ERA in his first 11 starts and is 3-12 with a 5.65 ERA in his last 20. The club is 12-19 in his starts. Nelson has never faced the Rangers.