Once one of the top power hitters in the American League, Hank Blalock has been hampered by injuries the past two seasons. He can still hit home runs in bunches, though, and that has helped the Texas Rangers move into second place in the West.
Blalock has a chance to homer in a career-high fourth straight game when the Rangers conclude a three-game series with the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday.
Once a feared home run hitter, Blalock’s injuries have limited him to under 300 at-bats in each of the last two seasons.
He came off the disabled list on Aug. 22 after missing nearly a month because of inflammation in his right shoulder, which has relegated the former All-Star third baseman to first-base duty. The two-time All-Star was also on the DL from April 26-July 17 due to a torn left hamstring and surgery to relieve carpal tunnel syndrome.
In 2007, Blalock was limited to 58 games because of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, requiring surgery to remove a bone near his right shoulder. Those injuries have limited Blalock to 10 homers each of the past two years after he hit 102 from 2003-06.
But on Tuesday night, Blalock homered for the third straight game - a go-ahead shot in the seventh -and Texas (76-82) beat Oakland (75-82) 6-4 to snap a five-game losing streak. That put the Rangers in second place in the West for the first time since July 25, one-half game ahead of the A’s.
“Even though we’ll be going home instead of going to the playoffs, we’ve got a short-term goal to try to beat Oakland and get second place,” Blalock said. “I’m trying to do anything to help that out.”
Now, Blalock has a chance to homer in four straight games for the first time. He is batting .333 (12-for-36) with four home runs, two doubles and 11 RBIs in nine games against Oakland this season, and .466 (14-for-30) with nine RBIs in his last nine contests overall.
“I always try to play to the best of my ability,” said Blalock, who had the game-winning home run in the 2003 All-Star Game. “I want to play hard and be productive. I don’t know whether this is going to carry over into next season. All I can control is my effort.”
He’ll likely be back at first base with rookie left-hander Matt Harrison (8-3, 5.68 ERA) set to take the mound. He has won both of his two starts against Oakland, posting a 0.64 ERA.
Harrison, though, was terrible in his last outing, allowing seven runs and nine hits in three innings as Texas lost 15-13 to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night. In his previous start, he pitched a five-hitter for his first career shutout as the Rangers beat Oakland 7-0 on Sept. 12.
The A’s will counter with Dana Eveland (9-8, 4.09), who is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in his last six starts.
The left-hander earned a win in his last outing, giving up seven hits while striking out seven in seven innings as Oakland beat Seattle 2-0 on Friday night.
Eveland is 0-1 with a 6.32 ERA in three career starts versus the Rangers
The A’s struck out six times Tuesday, extending their club record to 1,189 this season. Only 28 teams in history have struck out at least 1,200 times.
Jack Cust hit his 31st homer in the loss, giving him two home runs and four RBIs in his last three games. Oakland has lost four straight and eight of its last nine contests.