While the Texas Rangers are one of baseball’s hottest teams largely thanks to their powerful lineup, some might not be convinced they have the pitching staff to hold up in the postseason.
The Rangers have publicly acknowledged their interest in acquiring the Houston Astros’ long-time ace, and Texas will get a first-hand look at the three-time All-Star in Sunday night’s series finale as it seeks a fourth straight series win over its intrastate rivals.
Rangers president Nolan Ryan used the terms “phenomenal” and “special” while referring to Oswalt before Texas (45-29) played last weekend in Houston, and though no significant discussions between the teams have taken place, Oswalt said a potential in-state deal would be fine by him.
“If it works for the organization and works for me,” Oswalt said Friday. “They have a real good team here. They’re leading the division and you’ve got guys like Nolan, the head of the organization here, who’s going to put a good baseball team on the field.”
The Astros (29-46) have certainly seen what slugger Josh Hamilton(notes) and Texas are capable of. Hamilton singled in Saturday’s 7-2 win over Houston to extend his hitting streak to 20, tied with Kansas City’s Jose Guillen(notes) for the majors’ longest this season.
He’s hitting .494 with 25 RBIs during his streak, and is batting .486 during a personal eight-game run against the Astros.
“Honestly, I’m not too worried about hitting home runs, just because of the guys I have hitting behind me,” Kinsler said of Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero(notes) and Nelson Cruz(notes). “You’ve got basically the best sluggers in the game right now.”
While Oswalt (5-9, 3.08 ERA) could wind up pitching for the Rangers later this summer, he won’t be too thrilled about facing them. Oswalt is 0-4 with a 4.81 ERA in five outings in the series since his last victory, June 24, 2005.
Texas is hitting .331 against Oswalt in that stretch, and no player has done more damage than Kinsler. The second baseman is 6 for 13 with a homer, triple and double off Oswalt.
Hamilton, meanwhile, is just 2 for 9 against the three-time All-Star.
Oswalt has been very consistent lately, allowing two runs over seven innings in each of his last three starts. But while those numbers were good enough to win at Colorado and Kansas City, he was outdueled by Tim Lincecum(notes) in a 3-1 loss Tuesday at San Francisco.
Tommy Hunter(notes) (3-0, 2.31) made his season debut in the Rangers’ rotation on June 5, and he’s had nothing but success thus far. Hunter left his June 16 start at Florida early with an injury, but has won his other three outings after holding Pittsburgh to three runs over six innings Tuesday in a 6-3 victory.
Hunter has never faced Houston, but he seems to earn a little run support from Hamilton just by stepping on the mound. Hamilton has homered in all four of Hunter’s starts.
“I’d like to start a few more times to let him hit,” Hunter told the Rangers’ official website. “It’s just one of those things we can joke about. … I said, ‘Why don’t you start hitting two home runs instead of one every time I throw?’”