Preview: Santana opens on the mound for Royals' critical weekend series with Rangers
Having regained their power in their most recent series, the Texas Rangers will try to keep slugging their way toward a playoff berth.
The Rangers will try to earn some much-needed victories in a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals, another AL wild-card contender, that begins Friday night.
Texas (83-69) hit seven home runs while winning two of its final three games against Tampa Bay, the team that's tied with the Rangers atop the wild-card standings. They went deep three times in the third inning Thursday while cruising to an 8-2 victory.
Before that stretch, Texas didn't have a home run during a season-high seven straight losses.
"You can see how everything's starting to fall on track," said shortstop Elvis Andrus, who has two homers and six RBIs in the last three games. "Everybody's feeling better, relaxed out there."
The Rangers will try to keep heading in the right direction by continuing their recent success against the Royals (80-72), who are three games back in the wild card. Kansas City took two of three from another contender Cleveland earlier this week and has stayed in the race by winning 16 of 24.
"We've got a lot of guys in here that believe we can do it," first baseman Eric Hosmer told the team's official website after a 7-2 win Wednesday. "When you've got guys that are fighting for one goal and doing anything we can to win ballgames, it's real fun to come to the field and play every day, and that's what we're doing."
Texas has won seven of 10 over the Royals and took two of three in the only other matchup this season May 31-June 2.
The Rangers are hoping Martin Perez (9-5, 3.64 ERA) can get this series off to a strong start by regaining his winning form. The left-hander is 0-2 with a 5.56 ERA in two outings since a six-start win streak but had a solid performance Sunday against Oakland, allowing three runs over 6 1/3 innings in a 5-1 loss.
"In September, it's a big month for us. When you like to compete, it's easier when the games are big," he told the team's website. "There is no pressure. I just do what I have to do and throw strikes."
Ervin Santana (9-9, 3.23) will try to build on an impressive outing that snapped a losing streak. Santana gave up five hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 1-0 win in Detroit on Saturday after going 0-3 with a 4.76 ERA in his previous seven outings.
"Everything was working pretty good," Santana said. "I threw a lot of strikes and most of the time ahead in the count. That was the key."
Santana is 2-5 with a 6.89 ERA in his last nine starts against the Rangers but gave up only an unearned run and three hits over seven innings in his only matchup this season, a 3-1 loss June 2.
Perez is facing Kansas City for the first time.