The Texas Rangers found a cure to satisfy both their struggling offense and their downtrodden pitching staff in their latest game—don’t give up any runs.
The Rangers will try to build off an impressive shutout win on Sunday in Arlington as they look to become the first team to win a series against the Tampa Bay Rays since before the All-Star break.
Texas (62-62) is baseball’s highest-scoring team, but it also has allowed the most runs in the majors. Lately, however, only the latter has held true. The Rangers came into Saturday’s game with the first-place Rays (74-48) having given up 69 runs in their last seven games, but they’d been shutout in consecutive games—and four times in their last eight.
It didn’t take long for Texas to end their scoreless drought Saturday. Ian Kinsler led off the bottom of the first with a homer—his fifth leadoff shot this season —and though the Rangers only scored twice the rest of the way, that was enough as Matt Harrison allowed three hits in eight innings in the 3-0 win.
“We needed a well-pitched job and got it,” manager Ron Washington told the team’s official Web site.
It was the sixth time this season Texas recorded a shutout. The pitcher who started three of those, Vicente Padilla, was scheduled to start Sunday’s finale, but he was scratched due to inflammation in a muscle joint in his neck. That means Dustin Nippert (1-2, 7.03 ERA), who had been the team’s long reliever, will make his first start.
Nippert will be the 14th different starter the Rangers have used.
As for Texas’ offense, Kinsler has been on a tear recently, hitting .429 with four homers and nine RBIs in his last six games. Josh Hamilton, who leads the majors with 112 RBIs, is batting .258 (8-for-31) with four RBIs in his last eight.
The Rangers didn’t have designated hitter Milton Bradley in the lineup Saturday due to illness, but Washington expects him to be available.
“Sometimes when we pitch well, we don’t score runs and vice versa,” Hamilton said. “We need to find more consistency as a team. Tampa Bay is in first place and it’s nice to take a win out of their category.”
One of the key reasons the Rays are in first—3 1/2 games up on Boston—is 24-year-old Scott Kazmir (8-6, 3.22). The All-Star left-hander has certainly looked the part in two starts against the Rangers this season, going 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 16 strikeouts without a walk in 15 innings.
With his high strikeout totals, though, Kazmir has a tendency to throw a lot of pitches. That’s limited him recently—he’s thrown seven innings just once since June 6.
Kazmir hasn’t gone past the fifth in his last four starts, and he’s won only once since June 27. He gave up two runs in five innings on Tuesday at Oakland and was on the hook for the Rays’ 2-1 loss.
“I just have to go deeper into the game,” Kazmir told Tampa Bay’s official Web site. “That’s the bottom line.”
One uncertainty for the Rays on Sunday is the status of center fielder B.J. Upton. Manager Joe Maddon pulled Upton for not hustling on a double-play ball on Friday—the second time in 10 days he was benched for lack of hustle—and kept him out of the lineup Saturday.
“He’s going to be a superstar in this league,” Maddon said. “But you have to draw the line at some point to make sure all the right things do occur in the years to come.”
The Rays have won or tied eight straight series since being swept in Cleveland from July 10-13.