The Texas Rangers have done little at the plate while splitting the first two of a three-game home set with the Tampa Bay Rays. The return of one of their top hitters could help jump-start their lineup.
Texas (77-60) is fortunate to have split the first two of this series despite totaling three runs and 14 hits. Elvis Andrus(notes) had two of his team’s seven hits and David Murphy(notes) an RBI as the Rangers were stymied by James Shields(notes) in a 4-1 loss Wednesday.
The AL West-leading Rangers have dropped eight of 13, but could get a boost from Beltre, who was batting .276 with a 20 home runs and 76 RBIs when he went on the DL with a left hamstring strain July 23. Manager Ron Washington said Beltre will start at third base in the finale, but he also plans to use him as the designated hitter down the stretch.
“I’m going to monitor his playing at third base,” Washington told the Rangers’ official website. “I need him for the rest of this year. I would say this last month he’ll probably get more DH time than he got all year. I don’t know how many games that’s going to be, but you’ll probably see him at DH a little bit more.”
Beltre has hit .337 with four homers and 16 RBIs in his last 26 games versus Tampa Bay (74-61), which is 4-2 on a seven-game trip.
Michael Young(notes), who will move back to his role as DH after filling in for Beltre at third, singled Wednesday for just his second hit in 10 at-bats. Leadoff man Ian Kinsler(notes) is 1 for 15 in his last four games.
Looking to get something going offensively, the Rangers get their first look at Tampa Bay’s Jeff Niemann(notes) (9-5, 3.46 ERA) in a starting role Thursday. The right-hander has allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings over two relief appearances versus Texas. The most recent in Game 2 of the 2010 AL division series when he gave up a hit and struck out four in three scoreless innings.
Niemann improved to 8-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 12 starts since coming off the disabled list from a lower back strain when he allowed three runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 6-5 win at Toronto on Saturday.
Texas counters with C.J. Wilson(notes) (13-6, 3.29), who was 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA in his previous four starts before he yielded six runs and a career-high four homers in five innings of an 8-4 loss to the Angels on Saturday.
“The home run was working, the problem is I was the one giving them up,” Wilson said. “I feel like it’s kind of a weird thing. I don’t even really know what to think about that. That’s what happens sometimes.”
The only runs the left-hander gave up in 6 2-3 innings while not factoring in the decision of a 5-4 loss at Tampa Bay on May 31, came on a two-run homer to Matt Joyce(notes) and a solo shot by Sean Rodriguez(notes). Wilson is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts against the Rays, including the postseason.