Uncharacteristic struggles at the plate have prevented the Texas Rangers from pulling away further in the AL West. Getting Josh Hamilton(notes) back for a three-game series against the last-place Seattle Mariners might solve that.
Hamilton is expected to be back in the lineup Tuesday night when the Rangers attempt to continue their season dominance of the woeful Mariners.
Texas (61-44) is third in the majors with a .276 average, and among the leaders in runs (524) and on-base percentage (.341). However, the offense has stalled during a 6-5 stretch, hitting .242 while averaging 3.1 runs.
The Rangers mustered five hits and stranded nine runners in Sunday’s 4-1 loss at Los Angeles.
Despite hitting .212 while dropping two of three to the second-place Angels, Texas holds an eight-game lead atop the West.
The Rangers’ offense could get a major boost with Hamilton’s return from tendinitis in his right knee after he was left out of the lineup for consecutive games. The left fielder leads the majors with a .362 average, while he also ranks in the AL’s top 10 with his 23 homers, 75 RBIs and .636 slugging percentage.
Hamilton, hitting .456 in 16 games since the All-Star break, was given a cortisone shot Sunday.
“If I don’t do something about it, it’s going to linger,” Hamilton said of getting a second shot in the knee this season. “The plan for it is what I did three months ago. I got a shot and that took care of it for 2 1/2 to three months. That’s about what we’ve got left in the season, including the playoffs.”
Hamilton has a .342 average with three homers and 11 RBIs in 10 season meetings with the Mariners (39-67).
The Rangers have outscored them 62-22 while winning eight, including a three-game sweep at Seattle from April 30-May 2.
Colby Lewis(notes) (9-7, 3.40) has received no run support in losing his last two starts but may not need that much from Hamilton and his teammates. He has gone 2-0 with a 0.78 ERA in three starts versus Seattle this season and struck out 10 in nine innings of a 2-0, 12-inning victory at Safeco Field on April 30.
The Mariners have dropped seven in a row after mustering two hits in a 4-0 defeat at Minnesota on Sunday - their second straight shutout loss and third during the slide. The sweep by Texas started a season-high eight-game skid from April 30-May 8.
Seattle has been outscored 45-14 while hitting .212 with one homer during the current slide.
“When the whole team’s not swinging the bat well and we’re not getting on base, we’re just putting too much pressure on our pitching staff to continue to put up zeros,” first baseman Russell Branyan(notes) said.
The left-hander gave up five runs while serving up three homers in 4 1-3 innings and did not get a decision in Wednesday’s 6-5 loss at Chicago.
Vargas has struggled in five games - three starts - against the Rangers, going 0-2 with a 6.16 ERA. However, only one of those games came at Safeco, where he’s 5-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 11 starts this year.