The Rangers look to overcome what has been their biggest weakness over the past decade as they send Vicente Padilla to the mound on Saturday in the middle game of a weekend series against the Seattle Mariners.
Ian Kinsler hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning of the Rangers’ 5-2 win in the series opener on Friday, leading Texas (5-5) to its fifth win in seven games since being swept in its season-opening series by the Los Angeles Angels.
Gagne entered in the ninth and allowed one hit before inducing a game-ending double play to earn his first American League save and second overall in 22 months. The 2003 NL Cy Young Award winner, who once converted 84 straight saves with the Los Angeles Dodgers, hadn’t made a major league appearance in 10 months because of elbow and back injuries.
“I was trying to stop shaking. I was nervous out there,” Gagne said of his first save since June 6 before back surgery ended his season. “It’s been two frustrating years. Now, I’m back on track.”
Seattle (3-3) stranded nine runners, and is batting a major league-worst .211 this season.
With Gagne back, the next step for the Rangers is to improve their starting pitching, which has been the team’s primary weakness for years.Texas has ranked in the bottom six in starter’s ERA in each of the last 10 seasons entering 2007.
After struggling in his season debut, Padilla (0-2, 6.94 ERA) will look to build on a promising second outing in which he surrendered three runs—two coming on home runs by David Ortiz—over seven innings in a 3-2 loss to Boston on Sunday. Padilla also allowed only four hits, struck out four, walked one and retired his last nine batters.
The right-hander was 1-0 with a 3.65 ERA in two starts against Seattle last year.
He will match up against Miguel Batista (0-1, 15.43). He gave up eight runs in his first start, a 9-0 loss to Oakland on April 4. He matched a career high with 11 wins in 2006, but had only one in his last nine starts.
Batista hasn’t pitched against Texas while with Toronto in 2005, when he went 0-1 with a 0.00 ERA in three relief appearances.
The Rangers, though, have had success against Batista. Kenny Lofton has is hitting .366 (15-for-41) in his career against the right-hander, while shortstop Michael Young is batting .538 (7-for-13) against him.
In 18 at-bats against Batista, right fielder Sammy Sosa has six hits, including three home runs.
Kinsler has not faced Batista in his career, but the second baseman has three homers in his last three games, and is hitting .571 (8-for-14) with seven RBIs in his last four games.