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AP - Sports

Miguel Gonzalez is pleased to be contributing to the Baltimore Orioles' playoff push. He's probably happy he wasn't with them the last time they saw Josh Hamilton.

The Texas Rangers slugger, who had the best series of his season back in May against the Orioles, will get his first look at Gonzalez in Monday night's opener of a three-game set in Arlington.

Baltimore (66-55) has emerged as a contender thanks to numerous surprising contributors, and Gonzalez (5-2, 3.38 ERA) is certainly on that list. The right-hander joined the rotation July 6 in his second stint with the club this year and has provided a major boost.

Gonzalez is 3-0 with a 2.28 ERA in his last four outings - all Baltimore wins. He defeated Boston on Wednesday, giving up two runs over six innings in a 5-3 home victory.

"For them to give me the opportunity to pitch, to start, and just do what I had to do - I think all around we did a good job," he told the Orioles' official website.

Gonzalez was in the minors when Hamilton helped Texas (70-50) take three of four at Baltimore from May 7-10. The slugger had a four-homer, eight-RBI performance in a 10-3 rout May 8 and homered six times in the series while driving in 12 runs.

Hamilton seems to be bouncing back from a July in which he batted .177. He is hitting .341 with five homers and 12 RBIs over his last 12 games, although he went 1 for 12 over the weekend.

That didn't stop the Rangers from taking two of three in Toronto, winning 11-2 on Sunday as Michael Young went 3 for 5 with five RBIs.

Texas starters posted a 2.75 ERA in the series, yielding seven hits and four walks while striking out 22, after Matt Harrison pitched eight strong innings Sunday.

"Offense is always a hot-button issue in Texas with the culture we've built up with offense over the years," Young said, "but we're no different than any other team in the sense that starting pitching is always the biggest key."

The Rangers probably don't know what to expect from Ryan Dempster (1-1, 8.31), who will make his fourth start since being acquired from the Cubs. He was supposed to pitch Friday but was pushed back for personal reasons.

The veteran right-hander was tagged for eight runs over six-plus innings last Monday in an 8-2 loss to the Yankees. That's how many runs he yielded in his Texas debut Aug. 2 at home against the Angels, but manager Ron Washington thinks he will be OK.

"He's a pro," Washington told the Rangers' official website. "He went up against a hot Anaheim team and a pretty good New York Yankees team."

Dempster's lone career start versus the Orioles came with the Marlins in 1999. The Baltimore hitter he has faced the most is J.J. Hardy, who is 2 for 27 against him.

Baltimore has won 11 of 15 overall and on the road after taking two of three in Detroit over the weekend, rallying from five runs down in Sunday's 7-5 victory. Nick Markakis went 6 for 12 in the series, and Chris Davis homered twice and drove in four runs.

Davis and Orioles backup catcher Taylor Teagarden are returning to Arlington for the first time since leaving the Rangers.

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