Josh Hamilton(notes) is on a tear and the Texas Rangers are in position for their longest winning streak in more than 19 years. The lowly Pittsburgh Pirates don’t seem to be a likely candidate to stop their run.
Hamilton looks to extend the majors’ longest hitting streak and lead the Rangers to a 10th consecutive victory Wednesday night against the Pirates.
Hamilton has put together a career-high 17-game hitting streak to power Texas to nine straight victories. Another win would give the Rangers (42-28) their longest streak since a team-record 14-game run from May 12-27, 1991.
The All-Star left fielder got Texas closer to that mark with a double and a solo homer in a 6-3 win over the Pirates to open this three-game series Tuesday.
Hamilton is hitting .485 with eight homers and 24 RBIs during his streak, and he might be in ideal position to extend it against Pittsburgh (25-45), which has dropped 13 of 15 and has one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball with a 5.18 ERA.
“It’s amazing the stretch he’s going through,” Texas center fielder Julio Borbon(notes) said of Hamilton. “Looking at him and the way he goes about it, he’s out there enjoying and having fun. … It’s something for him to remember, and he’s definitely helping us out as a ballclub to get some wins.”
The Rangers have won eight of 10 all-time meetings with the Pirates, and are 16-4 since concluding last month with a four-game slide. The surge has provided Texas with a solid cushion atop the AL West, while Hamilton is among league leaders in the triple crown categories with a .339 average, 17 homers and 53 RBIs.
While Hamilton has been a major offensive force, the Rangers are also getting production from Borbon. He’s batting .429 over his last 18 games, lifting his season average from .233 to .294.
Texas is scheduled to give Dustin Nippert(notes) (2-3, 5.01 ERA) another turn in the rotation due to injuries to Derek Holland(notes) (left rotator cuff inflammation) and Rich Harden(notes) (gluteal strain).
Nippert had appeared 22 times out of the bullpen before lasting only three innings in Thursday’s 6-4 win at Florida, allowing three runs and seven hits.
The right-hander hasn’t pitched more than three innings since going 5 2-3 in his previous start Sept. 14, a 4-0 loss to Oakland.
Nippert has a 3.86 ERA in three games - one start - against Pittsburgh.
The Pirates own the worst record in the NL and have dropped eight of 10 during interleague play.
The left-hander allowed two hits while cruising through six scoreless innings Friday, but he surrendered four runs and five hits while managing only two outs in the seventh of a 4-3 loss to Cleveland.
“I got some ground balls, the defense made some great plays, my curveball was working, my changeup was working,” Maholm said. “In the seventh, I just didn’t make a pitch.”
Maholm hasn’t received much help from his offense. He’s 1-1 with a 2.53 ERA over his last five starts, getting two runs of support or fewer in four of them.