After finally overcoming their first-inning struggles, the Texas Rangers hope to win back-to-back games for the first time in over two weeks.
The Rangers look for another strong showing when they continue their three-game set with the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Texas (21-37) had dropped 10 of 12 games before beating the Tigers 7-4 in Tuesday’s series opener thanks to a six-run first inning. Victor Diaz’s grand slam sparked the outburst for the Rangers, who hadn’t scored in the first inning since May 23 against Minnesota.
Before Tuesday, they had been outscored 42-11 in the opening inning and hadn’t scored more than twice in the first frame of any game. The Rangers now hope to record their first consecutive wins since May 20-21.
Shortstop Michael Young is fueling the offense, hitting 15-for-33 over the last eight games, including 4-for-4 with an RBI Tuesday. He is batting .313 during his career versus the Tigers (32-25) - 8-for-13 in his last three matchups. Young has helped Texas win five of its last six meetings with Detroit.
Kevin Millwood (2-4, 6.69 ERA) tries to continue that run when he makes his second start since coming off the disabled list due to a strained left hamstring.
The right-hander struggled in his return on Friday, allowing seven runs - four earned - and 10 hits over five innings, but didn’t record a decision as the Rangers beat Seattle 9-8. It was only the second start in five weeks for Millwood, who has had two stints on the DL in that span.
“It was huge just having him back,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Millwood is 0-3 with an 8.87 ERA and a .336 opponent batting average in his last five starts. However, he is 3-2 with a 3.15 ERA in seven career starts versus the Tigers.
Detroit fell 3 1/2 games behind Cleveland for the AL Central lead with its eighth loss in 11 games Tuesday as starter Nate Robertson failed to record an out. The Tigers hope for a better outing when they hand the ball to Justin Verlander (5-2, 3.44).
The right-hander is trying to bounce back from one of his worst starts of 2007. He gave up a season-high seven runs and eight hits, including two homers, over five innings in an 11-5 defeat to Cleveland on Thursday.
He hit three batters with pitches, walked three and struck out six while throwing just 57 of his 107 pitches for strikes. It was Verlander’s first defeat since April 28, as the reigning AL rookie of the year had gone 4-0 with a 2.65 ERA in his previous five May starts.
“I’m never going to chalk it up as one of those nights,” Verlander told the Tigers’ official Web site, “no matter whether I’ve got my good stuff or I’m not throwing well. I still expect to go out there and give us a chance to win, and tonight I don’t feel like I did that.”
He is 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA in two career starts versus the Rangers.
Brandon Inge went 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs Tuesday after missing the last five contests due to a small chip fracture in his left big toe. He is batting .328 with three homers and 10 RBIs in his last 17 matchups with Texas, recording a hit in all but two of those games.