Having been held homerless in his last two games, Mench hopes facing McClung will result in the start of a new streak when the Rangers and Devil Rays meet on Monday in the start of a two-game series at Tropicana Field.
On April 21, Mench’s second career grand slam keyed a five-run first inning and lifted Texas (13-12) to a 13-7 home win over Tampa Bay.
“It’s only one game,” said Mench, who hadn’t driven in a run in the season’s first 15 games before matching a career high with five RBIs. “We have yet to put something consistent together. With an offense like this we know what we’re capable of doing.”
After missing five games earlier in the season with a sprained toe, Mench visited a foot specialist who found he was wearing cleats that were too small. Mench responded by going on the longest home-run hitting streak by a right-handed hitter in major league history.
It also marked the first time a batter had homered in seven straight games since Jim Thome in 2002. Ken Griffey Jr., Dale Long and Don Mattingtly share the major league record with homers in eight straight games.
While Mench has not homered in his last 11 at-bats, he had two more hits Sunday in an 8-4 win over Cleveland to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games.
He’s batting .407 (22-for-54) with seven homers, 22 RBIs and 11 runs scored during the hitting streak, after hitting only .217 without a home run or RBI in his first five games.
McClung (1-3, 9.27 ERA) tied a season high by issuing seven of Tampa Bay’s single-game record 14 walks in just five innings during a 4-2, 10-inning win at New York on Wednesday.
McClung’s .340 opponent batting average is the highest by any major league pitcher who has tossed at least 15 innings. He is 2-1 with a 9.58 ERA in five career appearances, including four starts, versus the Rangers.
Kammeron Loe (0-2, 5.20) will face the Devil Rays for the second time this season. He opposed McClung 10 days ago in his first career start versus Tampa Bay, and lasted just three innings while giving up six runs and seven hits but failed to record a decision.
Loe faced Oakland on Wednesday and threw a season-high 106 pitches, but again did not get a decision after giving up three runs and six hits through six innings in a 6-4 loss.
The right-hander has allowed two homers in each of his last two starts. Loe’s five homers allowed this season tie him with newcomer Vicente Padilla for second most on the club behind R.A. Dickey, who tied the post-1900 major league record by giving up six home runs to Detroit in his only start April 6.
Dickey was optioned to the minor leagues the next day.
With a 5-4 win Sunday over the Red Sox, Tampa Bay (11-14) is off to its best 25-game start since going 13-12 in 1999. Toby Hall and Carl Crawford each hit two-run homers, and Scott Kazmir continued to emerge as the ace of the staff by fanning 10 in seven innings.
“It was beautiful,” first-year Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said of Kazmir’s performance. “None of it surprises me. I just love his demeanor right now on the mound.”