As they fight against a team-wide illness, the Texas Rangers probably welcome the distraction of getting on the field.
They’ve certainly played that way.
The depleted Rangers will try for an improbable sixth straight win Saturday night as they continue a three-game road series against the Kansas City Royals.
Texas (53-41) has struggled to contain a virus that’s swept through its clubhouse over the past week and has affected several players.
Vicente Padilla(notes) was scratched from Wednesday’s start in Boston and tested positive for H1N1 influenza A - also known as swine flu - on Friday. Padilla, who is expected to pitch Tuesday against Detroit, is thought to be the first athlete in U.S. major pro sports to be diagnosed with the illness.
That positive test came after closer Frank Francisco(notes) was put on the disabled list Monday with a mild case of pneumonia. Eddie Guardado(notes), Omar Vizquel(notes), David Murphy(notes) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia(notes) are among those who also have come down with the flu or flulike symptoms.
“Without speculating, I think it is reasonable to expect that we may find some of our other guys have (swine flu),” assistant general manager Thad Levine said. “We’ve been medicating our players. We would use the same medication and the same kind program to rehabilitate them and they’ve all shown improvement. Those are the positive signs.”
Normally Texas’ starting left fielder, Murphy has been limited to designated hitting duties in the past two games, and Saltalamacchia was scratched from Friday night’s 2-0 win in Kansas City.
In sending the Royals to a season-high 10th straight loss, Marlon Byrd(notes) hit a solo homer off Royals All-Star Zack Greinke(notes) and scored in the eighth on Hank Blalock’s(notes) double. The Rangers have outscored opponents 20-9 during their win streak after totaling eight runs in four consecutive defeats.
Texas has four winning streaks of five-plus games this year but hasn’t won six straight since taking a season-high seven in a row from May 10-17.
Rangers pitchers have a 1.69 ERA over the last five games, and the only bad start they had during that stretch came from the man who takes the mound Saturday as Derek Holland(notes) (3-5, 6.02 ERA) faces the Royals for the first time.
The rookie left-hander allowed three runs over four innings against Minnesota in Sunday’s 5-3 win in 12 innings - his first start since July 4. Holland, though, is 2-0 in five appearances this month.
Hochevar is the last Royals pitcher to earn a win, beating Boston on July 9. He followed that by striking out a career-high nine, walking none and exiting with a one-run lead after 6 1-3 innings Sunday against Tampa Bay.
However, the Royals bullpen couldn’t hold on to that advantage in a 4-3 loss, and Kansas City’s relievers have continued to struggle with a 9.68 ERA during the slide.
“We need more production out of the bullpen, that’s a no-brainer,” manager Trey Hillman said.
Overall, the Royals (37-58) have a 6.51 ERA during the 10-game skid while opponents have hit .291 against them.
Kansas City, which has dropped seven in a row at Kauffman Stadium, hasn’t lost eight straight home games since a streak of nine in a row from May 19-June 7, 2006.