The Texas Rangers are trying to move closer to a third straight AL West title. A series loss to arguably the worst team in the league isn’t going to help them get there.
With their division lead its smallest in a month, the Rangers will try to avoid consecutive losses to the Cleveland Indians in Sunday’s finale.
Texas opened its 10-game road trip with a 5-3 victory Friday before wasting home runs from Adrian Beltre and David Murphy in a 4-3 loss Saturday. Beltre continued his torrid pace with three hits, but the Rangers lost for the fourth time in 14 games and had their lead in the West sliced to three over streaking Oakland.
“It’s not always the best team that wins, but the team that plays the best,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “They’re all major league teams and tonight they made the four runs they scored in the first stand up.”
The three-game advantage is Texas’ slimmest since it led the Los Angeles Angels by that same amount entering play on Aug. 1.
Beltre is 20 for 40 with seven homers, six doubles and 15 RBIs in his last 10 games.
Carlos Santana drove in two in a four-run first inning for Cleveland (56-77), which won its first game of September after matching the team record for losses in a month with a 5-24 August.
Three relievers combined to toss 3 1-3 scoreless innings, with Vinnie Pestano getting the final four outs for his first save of the season.
“The bullpen was terrific,” manager Manny Acta said. “To stop these guys is huge. At any moment (the Rangers) can turn around the score.”
A victory in the finale would give Acta’s club its first series win since July 24-26 against Detroit.
Cleveland hopes to have All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera available after he was a late lineup scratch Saturday with a sore right wrist. Cabrera, mired in a 2-for-31 slump, entered as a defensive replacement in the ninth.
Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus got a rare start at designated hitter and had an infield single in the eighth inning. That was enough to extend his hitting streak versus the Indians to 28 games - the longest against one opponent in team history.
Scheduled Texas starter Derek Holland (9-6, 4.90 ERA) has also experienced success against the Indians. The left-hander, who hails from Newark, Ohio - a little more than two hours south of Cleveland - is 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA in four career starts versus the Indians, going 1-0 with a 0.55 ERA in two outings at Progressive Field.
Holland wasn’t at his best against Tampa Bay on Monday but was good enough to win a second consecutive start. He allowed five runs - three earned - and six hits in six innings of a 6-5 victory.
One of the few Indians with any success against Holland is Santana, who is 4 for 10 with a homer and a double in their matchups.
Zach McAllister (5-5, 3.82) looks to rebound from one of his worst performances of the season. The right-hander allowed four earned runs or fewer in 15 straight starts before he was tagged for five runs and a career high-tying nine hits - including two homers - over 4 1-3 innings in Tuesday’s 7-0 loss to Oakland.
The Indians have supported McAllister with only 2.74 runs in his last eight starts, and he’s lost four of five decisions during that span.