Texas trails the Los Angeles Angels by 15 games in the AL West, but so far, the Rangers have been holding their own against the division leaders.
They’ll try for their first series sweep of the Angels in nearly six years Thursday when the teams wrap up their three-game set in Texas.
The Rangers (36-48) have not swept the Angels since taking three games at home Sept. 21-23, 2001. They own the second-worst record in the AL, but have outscored Los Angeles (51-33) 12-5 in the two wins after dropping six of the first seven meetings this season.
Over their last nine games, Texas has won two games at Detroit, two at Boston and two against the Angels. The Rangers have won 10 of their last 14 overall.
“We’re starting to string some things together,” said Marlon Byrd, who drove in the tiebreaking run in Wednesday’s 4-2 win. “We can really make some people nervous now.”
Brad Wilkerson failed to homer after tying a club record by connecting in his final three at-bats Tuesday, but came close with his RBI double in the second inning. He has five homers and 16 RBIs over his last eight games.
The Angels, meanwhile, have dropped six of their last eight and have scored only 12 runs in their last four games.
“There are going to be ups and downs in a season,” outfielder Gary Matthews said. “We’re not going to panic or jump off a bridge.”
So far, they have been held in check by a Rangers rotation that has allowed three or fewer runs in nine of Texas’ last 12 games.
“It’s a matter of pitching,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “Pitching makes everything better. Our starting pitching is outstanding. That’s why we’re on the roll we’re on.”
However, Robinson Tejeda (5-7, 6.69 ERA), who starts the finale, hasn’t given the Rangers much of a boost lately. He has not lasted more than four innings in three of his last four starts, and has allowed at least four runs in each of them.
Tejeda is tied with fellow Texas starter Vicente Padilla for the worst ERA in baseball among pitchers who have thrown at least 80 innings. He gave up four runs in four innings on Saturday, but the Rangers rallied for a 5-4 win at Boston.
Tejeda is 1-0 with a 4.61 ERA in three career starts against the Angels, including two this season.
The Angels will counter with Kelvim Escobar (9-3, 3.32), who has won his last three decisions but was pounded for season highs of seven earned runs and 10 hits on Friday. Escobar, who came into the game with the fourth-best ERA in the AL, escaped without a loss as the Angels rallied to beat Baltimore, 9-7.
He allowed two homers after giving up just four in his first 14 starts.
“I feel great out there,” he told the Angels’ official Web site. “Seems like everything I threw, they hit it. It wasn’t like I was falling behind. I got the lead and I pounded the strike zone.”
Escobar will find out shortly before taking the mound whether he will join teammates Vladimir Guerrero, John Lackey and Francisco Rodriguez at next week’s All-Star game. He is one of five AL players who can be named to the team via Internet fan balloting.
Escobar is 3-8 with a 4.45 ERA in 30 career appearances, including 12 starts, against the Rangers. He won his only start this season against them, allowing three runs in 5 1-3 innings in an 8-3 home victory on April 3.
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