Times are tough for the Texas Rangers.
After dropping the final seven games of a nine-game road trip, the Rangers return home Friday night to open a three-game series weekend series against the Minnesota Twins and promising rookie starter Nick Blackburn.
Texas (7-16) opened its trip with a two-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays, but after that the bottom fell out of the pitching staff. The Rangers gave up a whopping 67 runs and 80 hits over seven games while suffering sweeps at Boston and Detroit.
The pitching staff has compiled some downright grisly numbers during the losing streak—a 10.13 ERA, an opponent batting average of .339, and 44 walks issued in 56 innings. After allowing 11 runs in the sixth inning of a 19-6 loss at Detroit on Wednesday, Rangers pitchers served up five home runs in Thursday’s series finale en route to an 8-2 defeat.
“It will be good to go home and see if we can get something going,” said Texas manager Ron Washington, whose club will now seek to avoid losing eight in a row for the first time since Aug. 8-16, 2005. “Detroit has a great lineup, and if you give them an opportunity, someone’s going to take it.”
The Rangers, who have lost 12 of 14 overall, have actually fared even worse at home than on the road. They are 2-6 in Arlington compared with a 5-10 record in other parks.
They’ll send Kevin Millwood (1-2, 2.53 ERA) to the mound for the series opener. Despite giving up two runs or fewer in four of his five starts, the Rangers’ opening-day starter is receiving fewer than four runs of support per outing and has managed only one win.
The right-hander limited Boston to two runs over six innings while scattering 10 hits Sunday, but the Texas bullpen yielded four runs in the eighth inning of a 6-5 defeat.
Millwood has never beaten the Twins, going 0-5 with a 5.64 ERA and a .337 opponent batting average in eight starts.
He’ll be opposed by Blackburn (1-1, 2.49), a 26-year-old right-hander coming off an impressive outing.
Blackburn earned his first major league win Saturday against Cleveland, scattering eight hits over 7 2-3 innings of Minnesota’s 3-0 home victory. He struck out one, did not walk a batter and threw 69 of his 102 pitches for strikes.
“It doesn’t look like he gets rattled too much,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We liked him last year, and I think his progression is getting better and better.”
Minnesota (10-12) is trying to avoid its third three-game losing streak of 2008. The Twins managed only a pair of runs while losing the final two of a three-game set at Oakland, with both of those runs coming in an 11-2 loss on Thursday.
The offense could get a lift Friday with Michael Cuddyer’s expected return from the disabled list. The right fielder, who has not played since April 5 due to a dislocated right index finger, totaled 40 homers and 190 RBIs over the last two seasons.
Cuddyer is a .312 (29-for-93) career hitter against the Rangers, and is 7-for-15 (.467) with a homer and three doubles off Millwood.
The Twins went 7-2 in last year’s season series between these clubs, including wins in the last four games.