Texas (39-55) at Tampa Bay (32-61)

Thunder Currently: St. Petersburg, FL
Temp: 83° F
  • Game info: 7:15 pm EDT Fri Jul 18, 2003
  • TV: KDFI, WPXM
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Texas Rangers are determined to trade Juan Gonzalez, regardless of how many home runs he hits.

Gonzalez will look to continue his power surge when the Rangers continue their four-game series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field.

Gonzalez went 3-for-5 with four RBIs Thursday as Texas beat Tampa Bay 12-6.

The former two-time AL MVP hit his 429th homer, a three-run drive, and added a run-scoring double. Donnie Sadler and Marcus Thames also homered for the Rangers, who have won seven of their last 11.

Gonzalez is batting .293 with 24 home runs and 70 RBIs despite missing 14 games. He has a hit 13 of his last 14 games with six home runs over that stretch.

Before Thursday’s game, Rangers general manager John Hart met with Fernando Cuza, the agent for Gonzalez to discuss whether the slugger would be willing to drop his no-trade clause. The Rangers tried to trade Gonzalez to the Montreal Expos last month, but he blocked the deal.

Hart and Cuza did not get into details of the session.

“It was more fact-finding, and it was productive,” Hart said. “Beyond that, I really don’t have anything really to report.”

Aubrey Huff hit a two-run double Thursday for the Devil Rays, who have lost five of six.

The 26-year-old outfielder has been Tampa Bay’s best hitter this season, batting .304 with 17 home runs, 52 RBIs and 49 runs scored.

Rookie Rocco Baldelli has been the Devil Rays’ other top offensive player, although he has cooled off at the plate of late. Baldelli is hitting .222 (12-for-54) in July, dropping his average to .300.

Manager Lou Piniella said Tampa Bay will continue bringing up younger players from the minors during the second half of the season.

“It’s a matter of evaluating,” Piniella said. “We needed to look at some kids. We’re going to keep growing with the kids.”

STANDINGS: Rangers - 4th place, 19 GB, AL West. Devil Rays - 5th place, 26 1/2 GB, AL East.

RANGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Ismael Valdes (7-6, 6.22 ERA). Valdes stumbled into the break, going 1-4 with a 10.57 ERA in his last five starts. He gave up four runs and eight hits over 4 2-3 innings in an 8-2 loss to Kansas City on Saturday. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 2.41 ERA in three starts against Tampa Bay.

DEVIL RAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Jeremi Gonzalez (3-4, 4.11 ERA). The 28-year-old right-hander is winless in four starts, going 0-2 with a 6.09 ERA. Gonzalez allowed three runs and seven hits over 6 2-3 innings, but failed to get a decision in Tampa’s 4-3 loss to Seattle last Friday. Gonzalez has held the opposition to a .203 batting average and has allowed three runs or fewer in eight of his 11 starts.

OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Rangers - Hank Blalock, .323 avg.; Gonzalez, 24 HRs and 70 RBIs; Alex Rodriguez, 61 runs; Michael Young and Rodriguez, 7 SBs. Devil Rays - Huff, .304 avg., 17 HRs, 52 RBIs and 49 runs; Carl Crawford, 23 SBs.

SEASON SERIES: Rangers, 5-1.

STREAKS AND NOTES: Rangers - Texas is 16-15 against the AL East, its best record against any division this season. … The Rangers have an AL-high 139 homers. … RHP Ryan Drese was recalled on Thursday and RHP Victor Santos was sent outright to Triple-A Oklahoma. Devil Rays - OF Ben Grieve is 6-for-14 with a home run against RHP Valdes. … Tampa Bay has been outhomered 66-29 at home. … OF Huff leads the AL with 32 doubles.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rangers - 16-28 on the road; Devil Rays - 19-30 at home.

INJURIES: Rangers - OF Kevin Mench (wrist), 15-day DL; RHP Chan Ho Park (oblique), 15-day DL; RHP Jeff Zimmerman (elbow), 60-day DL; INF Herbert Perry (shoulder), 60-day DL; OF Rusty Greer (neck), 60-day DL. Devil Rays - INF Rey Ordonez (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Seth McClung (elbow), 60-day DL.

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