Finally showing signs of breaking out of his slump, Hank Blalock will try to lead the Texas Rangers to their seventh straight victory as they open a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Blalock homered twice and finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs Wednesday as the Rangers completed a sweep of the Cleveland Indians with a 5-2 victory. The All-Star third baseman was 10-for-64 (.156) in his previous 19 games, and hadn’t homered since July 19, a stretch of 28 games.
Blalock was almost scratched from the starting lineup because his wife, Misty, was in labor awaiting the birth of their first child.
“We had two lineups in the hand,” Rangers manager Buck Showalter said. “I don’t know, you would have to ask him, but it kind of got his mind off other things.”
Blalock is hitting .321 (9-for-28) against the Royals this season with two homers, two doubles, a triple and four RBIs.
The Rangers, who had a season-high eight-game winning streak from June 18-26, are just a half-game behind Oakland for first place in the AL West. Texas is tied with Boston for the AL wild card.
The Rangers will start Ryan Drese, who has the league’s third-best ERA at 3.33.
The right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.34 ERA over his last three starts and has won six of his last seven decisions overall, including a 6-2 home victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday. He allowed two runs and seven hits over 7 1-3 innings in recording his career high-tying 10th victory.
“Whenever I get somebody on base I try to get a ground ball,” said Drese, who also won 10 games in 2002 with the Indians. “I try to keep their runs small, that’s something I’ve concentrated on.”
After evening their series with the Mariners with Wednesday’s 3-2 win, the Royals didn’t get to play the finale as it was postponed by rain.
Kansas City has won just four times over its last 12 games.
Mike Sweeney, the team’s home run, RBI and runs leader, is still day-to-day with stiffness in his lower back, an injury that has sidelined him in the past.