Struggling to regain the batting stroke that won him the AL MVP last season, Miguel Tejada is still on the brink of joining a select group in baseball history.
The shortstop will play in his 500th consecutive game, the longest active streak in the majors, when the Oakland Athletics open a three-game series with the Texas Rangers at Network Associates Coliseum.
“For me, I’m proud to reach 500 games,” Tejada said. “It’s good. I’m not looking to play a certain number of games—600 or 700 games. I just like to play baseball.”
Tejada will become the 34th player in major league history to reach the mark, and just the third since Cal Ripken Jr. began his record streak of 2,632 games on May 30, 1982. Atlanta outfielder Dale Murphy (740) and Toronto first baseman Joe Carter (507) also achieved the feat during Ripken’s run.
After hitting .308 with 34 homers and 131 RBIs in 2002, Tejada has had to campaign to stay in the lineup this season.
With Tejada hitting just .161 at the end of April, Oakland manager Ken Macha toyed with the idea of giving his All-Star shortstop some time off. But Tejada claimed that would only compound his hitting woes, and Macha continued to pencil his name into the lineup card.
Tejada has raised his average to a paltry .222 with a .281 on-base percentage.
“Frustration sets in with him when he doesn’t get his hits,” Macha said. “It happens with everybody. He shows his emotions.”
Oakland won three straight for the first time since May 3-6 and ended a string of three consecutive series losses. The A’s hadn’t won a series since taking three of four in Kansas City two weeks ago.
With Sunday’s 10-4 loss to Florida, Texas has lost 13 of 15, including a nine-game losing streak from May 30-June 8.
“We haven’t been doing anything well,” Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez said. “We’re not hitting and we’re not pitching. We have to rally and get the ship going in the right direction.”
STANDINGS (through June 15): Rangers - 4th place, 18 GB, AL West. Athletics - 2nd place, 7 GB, AL West.
RANGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Victor Santos (0-1, 8.38 ERA). Santos has been hit hard since being called up from Triple-A Oklahoma on June 5 to start in place of RHP Joaquin Benoit, who went on the DL with soreness in his elbow. The 26-year-old right-hander allowed five runs and seven hits over 4 2-3 innings in Wednesday’s 8-2 loss to the New York Mets. Santos has allowed just one hit over 1 2-3 innings of relief in two career appearances against Oakland.
ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTER: Ted Lilly (3-5, 4.54 ERA). Lilly is 0-3 with a 7.05 ERA over his last five starts and hasn’t won since a 3-1 victory over Detroit on May 13. The 27-year-old left-hander is coming off his worst start of the season, surrendering seven runs and five hits—all homers—over four innings in Wednesday’s 11-6 loss to Atlanta. In six career appearances against Texas, including five starts, Lilly is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Rangers - Hank Blalock, .341 avg.; Juan Gonzalez, 18 HRs and 49 RBIs; Carl Everett, 50 runs; Rodriguez, 7 SBs. Athletics - Byrnes, .333 avg. and 6 SBs; Eric Chavez, 12 HRs; Erubiel Durazo, 40 RBIs and 38 runs.
SEASON SERIES: Athletics, 4-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Rangers - Texas is 2-11 against Oakland dating to July 28, 2002, and has lost 10 of 13 at Network Associates Coliseum since the start of last season. … SS Rodriguez is batting .308 with two homers and three RBIs in 13 career at-bats against LHP Lilly. … RHP Benoit will make a rehab start for Triple-A Oklahoma on Tuesday. He will throw for five innings or 70 pitches, whichever comes first. Athletics - The sweep of the Expos was Oakland’s first since April 25-27 against Cleveland. … OF Byrnes, who had a 22-game hitting streak earlier this season, extended his current string to 10 games Sunday. He is batting .375 (15-for-40) with three homers and seven RBIs during the stretch. … OF Jermaine Dye received treatment on his surgically repaired right knee before Sunday’s game and was not in the lineup. His status for Tuesday remains uncertain.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rangers - 11-22 on the road; Athletics - 23-10 at home.
INJURIES: Rangers - 1B Herbert Perry (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Benoit (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Chan Ho Park (oblique), 15-day DL; RHP Jeff Zimmerman (elbow), 60-day DL; OF Rusty Greer (neck), 60-day DL. Athletics - LHP Micah Bowie (elbow), 15-day DL.