Heading into this season, it seemed highly unlikely that Texas’ four-game set in Cleveland this weekend would have the makings of a potential postseason preview.
That will be the case, however, as the Rangers look to continue their recent success against the Indians on Thursday night in the opener between these division leaders.
While it’s hardly a shock for the reigning AL champion Rangers (30-26) to have a 1 1/2-game lead in the West, it’s a major surprise for a Cleveland club that failed to win 70 games each of the last two seasons to hold a five-game cushion atop the Central with an AL-best 33-20 record.
“They are a bunch of young guys that (manager) Manny Acta is just letting play and do what they do,” Rangers manager Ron Washington told the team’s official website. “They beat you a lot of ways - stealing bags, beating you with the long ball, beating you on the mound. They are playing well together.”
Cleveland has proved Washington right by winning the last two of a three-game set in Toronto to conclude a 3-3 trip.
“I’m pretty happy with the way the guys bounced back and took two out of three here,”Acta said.
After breaking out for 18 hits in a 13-9 win over the Blue Jays on Thursday, the Indians try to avoid a season-high third consecutive loss at Progressive Field.
Cleveland is 19-6 at home, but has lost 11 of 15 against the Rangers at Progressive. The Indians snapped a seven-game home skid versus the Rangers last season and are just 3-12 overall versus Texas since the start of the 2009 season.
Their challenge this weekend does not get any easier against a Texas club that has won seven of 10.
Carlos Carrasco(notes) (4-2, 4.91 ERA) looks to win his fourth consecutive start for Cleveland in this contest. Though the right-hander has a modest 4.15 ERA his last three outings, his teammates have totaled 26 runs during that stretch.
Carrasco allowed two runs in six innings of a 7-3 win at Tampa Bay on Saturday.
“I put too much pressure on myself and I really need to just throw a lot of innings,” Carrasco told the team’s official website. “For me, the focus is to keep the team winning.”
Carrasco will take that same approach into his first start against the Rangers since he allowed five runs in five innings and did not factor in the decision of an 11-9 home loss Sept. 8, 2009.
Nelson Cruz(notes) is 0 for 2 with a walk and two strikeouts versus Carrasco, but went 3 for 4 with a RBI in the Rangers’ 3-0 win at Tampa Bay on Wednesday. The All-Star is batting .429 with four RBIs his last five games.
The right-hander has not factored in the decision of his previous two 2011 starts but has 2.57 ERA in those outings. In his most recent start, Bush allowed three runs in four innings of a 12-5 loss to the Yankees on May 8.
The Indians shortstop is batting .333 with six of his career-high 10 home runs at Progressive Field this season. Cabrera had 18 homers in 1,415 at-bats in his previous four seasons entering 2011.