The Texas Rangers’ major-league best offense went into the All-Star break on a high, pounding out 26 runs in taking two of three from the Chicago White Sox, but was shut down in their first three games of the second half.
Facing the White Sox again seems to have the Rangers’ lineup back in business - but now they’ll have a different challenge.
Texas will try to build on another strong offensive effort on Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field when it faces Chicago and Mark Buehrle, who threw a no-hitter in his last start against the Rangers.
Buehrle (7-8, 3.69 ERA) has lost two of his last three starts, but he’s pitched extremely well for the most part over the last six weeks, going 5-2 with a 1.83 ERA since June 7.
He hasn’t faced the Rangers (52-48) this season, but he has fond memories of his last start against them. Buehrle threw a no-hitter against Texas in a 6-0 win on April 18, 2007, striking out eight.
His latest outing came on Friday in Chicago’s first game after the break, as he went seven innings, allowing four runs - three earned - in a 9-5 win over Kansas City.
“Every time he’s out there, Buehrle has continued to help this ballclub,” manager Ozzie Guillen told the team’s official Web site.
He’s starting a day earlier than he was scheduled in order to attend his grandfather’s funeral on Wednesday.
Buehrle will only have had three days of rest, but he’s proved in the past he can be effective working with a shorter period of time between starts. The left-hander is 3-1 with a 2.94 ERA in five career starts on three days’ rest.
The Rangers have baseball’s best offense, a unit that scores 5.5 runs per game, and the White Sox (55-44) came into their three-game series in Arlington prior to the break tied for the best ERA (3.40) in the majors.
Texas roughed up Chicago’s staff in that series, however, scoring at least seven runs in each game to win two of three, including a wild 12-11 finale.
The Rangers’ offense seemed to take an extended All-Star break, though, scoring just three combined runs in dropping two of three in Minnesota to begin the second half. But the lineup got back on track on Monday in their first game at U.S. Cellular Field this season, grabbing the lead early on a three-run Josh Hamilton homer en route to a win 6-1, handing the White Sox their third straight home loss.
Hamilton had been given a rare day off Sunday by manager Ron Washington.
“I would never take a day off,” said Hamilton, who leads the majors with 98 RBIs. “But … the All-Star break kind of wore me out, it really did. I think it was good for me.”
The center fielder is now hitting .333 (6-for-18) with a homer and seven RBIs in four games against the White Sox.
Meanwhile, Chicago’s pitching staff has seen its ERA rise considerably since first taking on the Rangers on July 11. The White Sox have given up 54 runs in losing five of their last seven games, bringing the team ERA to 3.67.
Texas has a league-worst 5.12 ERA, but the Rangers have been the recipients of some impressive pitching in their last two games - a three-hit shutout of the Twins on Sunday, then limiting the White Sox to five hits Monday.
Luis Mendoza (2-3, 6.28) will try to keep the team’s good pitching efforts going, and he’s coming off a quality start in his last outing - against Chicago. He went six innings on July 11, giving up a run and three hits while striking out eight in the Rangers’ 7-2 win.