The Texas’ Rangers’ offense hasn’t been productive lately, but perhaps a late rally in their last game is the starting point they need to break out.
Facing baseball’s worst pitching staff for a three-game series could also help, though in the opener they’ll draw a starter who has been solid of late.
The Rangers (49-36) have won six of 10 despite a mediocre offensive stretch. They had scored 30 runs in nine games prior to Thursday’s 5-4 win over Seattle, leaving 62 men on base in the process. They rank near the bottom of the majors with a .241 average with runners in scoring position, but had been especially poor in their last nine, hitting .192 in such situations.
Texas was on the verge of being swept at home for only the second time this season Thursday, trailing 3-1 before a four-run seventh inning turned things around. Adrian Beltre who hit the second of his two homers to lead off the inning, finished 3 for 4 and is 13 for 33 (.394) over his last eight games.
It was his 24th career multihomer game and gave him 16 home runs this year. His .298 batting average leads the team.
“(Beltre) shows up every day and he not only comes to do his job, he comes to beat the opponent,” manager Ron Washington said of the third baseman, whose homer in the third inning was his first in 23 games. “He battles every single day and he makes everyone around him better.”
But other Rangers, particularly Ian Kinsler and Mitch Moreland are mired in slumps, though both registered a hit Thursday. Moreland is 6 for 40 (.150) over his last 11, while Kinsler is 3 for 27 in seven contests to lower his average to .281.
The Rangers have won five straight against Houston, batting .315 with 10 homers and 13 doubles.
The Astros’ ERA of 4.78 ranks last in baseball, a big reason for the majors’ worst record at 31-55. They lost for the eighth time in 10 games Thursday with a 7-5 defeat to Tampa Bay, but should feel good about giving the ball to Harrell (5-8, 4.59). He allowed the Rangers just one run in six innings in his first start of the season April 2, though it was in a losing effort as Houston lost 7-0.
Harrell has posted a 3.22 ERA over his last six starts, but has a 1-2 record to show for it with the Astros providing eight runs of support. He recorded a quality start for the fourth time in six games Sunday, limiting the Angels to one run and striking out seven in seven innings without a decision in a 3-1 loss.
“His stuff was probably as good as it had been all year,” manager Bo Porter said.
A liner caught the right-hander on his left leg in the sixth inning, but Harrell said he was OK afterward.
“After the initial contact, it kind of faded away,” he said. “You’ve just got to go back to making pitches.”
Texas starter Nick Tepesch (3-6, 4.71) beat Houston on May 12, surrendering a run and four hits while striking out a season-high eight in six innings of a 12-7 victory, but the rookie is winless in his last eight starts since while posting a 5.31 ERA.
Beltre is 5 for 10 with two doubles off Harrell.