Impressive pitching is a major reason why the Texas Rangers are enjoying their largest division lead in over a decade.
The Rangers (56-40) have won six of eight since the All-Star break to open a six-game lead on the Angels (51-47) in the West. The six-game advantage is the team’s biggest since it won the division by eight games in 1999.
Texas has compiled a 2.68 ERA during its 6-2 surge, and Cliff Lee(notes) continued that run of strong pitching in Thursday night’s series opener. Lee earned his first win with the Rangers, working into the ninth inning and combining with Neftali Feliz(notes) on a five-hitter in a 3-2 victory.
“Each game with these guys now is important,” said Angels right-hander Jered Weaver(notes), Thursday’s losing pitcher. “Falling six back isn’t where we want to be. We’re not used to this, but we’re not going to give up. They have a great club over there and if you make any mistakes, they make you pay for it.”
The Rangers are 32-19 at home and the staff has been a key part of that success, posting a 3.71 ERA in a hitter-friendly stadium. Opponents, meanwhile, have a 5.32 ERA there this year.
Texas has won nine of 12 at home against the Angels, taking all three meetings this season by holding them to a .192 batting average.
Wilson (8-5, 3.23 ERA) will try to continue that trend by improving upon his 6-2 home record.
The left-hander, however, was a loser in his last home start, laboring through 111 pitches in 4 2-3 innings while allowing three runs in a 4-1 defeat to Baltimore.
He was much better in Sunday’s 4-2 win at Boston, yielding one run and three hits with a career-high 10 strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings.
Wilson is 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA in two starts against the Angels this season.
The Angels give the ball to Joe Saunders(notes) (6-9, 4.83), who has never fared well against the Rangers. The left-hander is 3-6 with a 7.19 ERA in 10 starts against Texas, losing all five starts in Arlington with an 11.68 ERA.
Saunders has been dreadful in his last two road starts, giving up 13 runs in 8 1-3 innings. He allowed five runs and 10 hits over six innings Saturday at home against Seattle before leaving without a decision in a 7-6 win.
Callaspo, batting .275 with eight homers and 43 RBIs for the Royals, is expected to be the starting third baseman, and is also capable of playing second and shortstop. He has a .379 average in eight games at Texas and is 2 for 5 off Wilson.
“What he does in the batter’s box has a chance to be something special,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “He brings us a lot of depth on some of the things we’re looking at that (Kendry Morales’)(notes) injury has created. He can hit in a lot of different areas, from the two hole to six or seven. He’s good with guys in scoring position. He’ll be a boost to our offense.”
Callaspo was an Angels minor leaguer from 2001 until he was traded to Arizona in 2006.