The Texas Rangers likely won’t be playing baseball in October. That’s certainly not slowing them down lately.
The Rangers try to continue one of their best stretches of 2007 when they open a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals on Monday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Texas (63-73) hasn’t made the playoffs since 1999 and has double-digit deficits in both the wild card and division races this year. But the Rangers have won seven of their last eight games and are coming off a series win over the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels.
Hank Blalock hit a grand slam in the eighth inning Sunday and Texas held on for an 8-7 win to take two of the three games. It was Blalock’s first game since May 16 after being sidelined with thoracic outlet syndrome, which affects the nerves that pass through the shoulder into the neck.
“It was my fourth at-bat, so I was able to get some of the rust out before that,” said Blalock, who had surgery May 21 to remove a rib, which helped alleviate the problem. “To be able to contribute like that after not being able to play for 3 1/2 months, that was really exciting for me.”
The Rangers, who will open a six-game homestand, have won a season-high five straight at home and are 37-31 there. They haven’t won six in a row at home since a nine-game run May 20-June 13, 2005.
Texas also has won seven of its last 10 home meetings with the Royals (61-75). Kansas City leads the series this season 4-2.
Kansas City’s Zack Greinke (5-5, 4.07 ERA) will make his third start since returning to the rotation. The right-hander, who began the season as a starter before being moved to the bullpen, hasn’t allowed a run through seven innings in his back-to-back starts.
Greinke scattered five hits over four frames Wednesday, but didn’t factor in the 5-0 win over Detroit. He didn’t issue a walk and struck out five, throwing 49 of his 71 pitches for strikes.
“Very good. Better than the first (start),” Royals manager Buddy Bell said. “I thought he was real good the first time. I thought tonight he was even better.”
Greinke is 1-2 with a 5.48 ERA in six career games, including four starts, versus the Rangers.
Texas will counter with Kameron Loe (6-10, 5.35). The right-hander allowed four runs Wednesday - one earned due in part to his two errors - and five hits over six innings in a 5-4, 11-inning win over the Chicago White Sox.
Loe walked two and struck out a career-high tying seven, but is just 1-4 with a 5.30 ERA in seven second-half starts.
He is 0-1 with a 12.60 ERA in four career games, including two starts, versus the Royals. He gave up six runs over 5 1-3 innings in a 10-0 defeat to them on July 29.