Although the Texas Rangers have struggled on the road all season, they can secure their first victory in a road series Saturday night when they continue their three-game interleague set against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
The Rangers (16-26) are an AL-worst 6-16 on the road, but won for the second time in nine games away from home 7-4 in the series opener on Friday. The Rangers had lost their last three games against Tampa Bay by a total of six runs, with two of those defeats coming in extra innings.
“I thought we’ve been playing good baseball for three days,” Texas manager Ron Washington told the team’s official Web site. “On the fourth day, we got what good baseball is supposed to get you - a W.”
The Rangers, however, haven’t won consecutive games since a season-high three-game winning streak May 4-6 and have won two straight road games only once.
“I’ve been on losing teams before and it’s crazy,” said Texas third baseman Ramon Vazquez, who went 3-for-4 with a home run in his season debut on Friday. “Nothing clicks. One day you pitch well and you don’t hit. Another day you hit, it’s backwards. It’s hard to put it together.”
“But it’s still early. If everyone figures it out, we still have a chance.”
The Rangers suffered more bad news when they lost third baseman Hank Blalock earlier this week. Blalock has missed the last two games with shoulder pain, and the team announced Friday that he will have surgery that could sideline him for up to three months.
Blalock was batting .348 (16-for-46) in his last 12 games.
“It’s a huge loss,” Washington said. “Especially when you realize he was rounding into the form people remember in the days when he was knocking the ball out of the ballpark and hitting for a high average. We’re going to miss him. But you lose bodies and you bring bodies in. The schedule continues on and we just bring other people in and keep playing.”
The Astros (20-21) fell back below the .500 mark with their second straight loss after a four-game winning streak. They trailed 7-0 before recording their first hit in the sixth inning Friday.
“We just didn’t swing the bats the first half of the game,” manager Phil Garner said. “We woke up the last half, but we were already in a bind.”
Wandy Rodriguez (1-3, 4.33 ERA) gets the start for Houston in search of his first back-to-back wins since June 6-11. The left-hander snapped an 18-game winless streak on Sunday, when he held Arizona to one run and four hits in five innings of the Astros’ 5-2 victory.
His previous win was his only career start against the Rangers on July 2. The left-hander gave up five runs in 5 1-3 innings in a 9-5 victory.
Texas’ John Koronka will make his season debut after opening the year with Triple-A Oklahoma. The left-hander went 7-7 with a 5.69 ERA with Texas last year, including a loss to Houston on May 21. He gave up three runs in six innings in a 5-0 defeat.
Koronka was 3-3 with a 5.40 ERA in eight starts this year at Oklahoma.
Houston is second in the NL with a .291 team batting average against left-handers.