Orioles-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

There have been only three home runs hit in the first two games of this series between the Baltimore Orioles and the Texas Rangers.

Given the propensity of the starters in Wednesday night's finale to give up the long ball, there's likely to be a few more clearing the fence.

Both the Orioles and Rangers play in hitter-friendly parks, so it's not surprising that each team has a starter that ranks in the top 10 in the AL in home runs allowed. Those pitchers will square off in this game, with Baltimore's Tommy Hunter (4-7, 5.49 ERA) opposing Derek Holland (7-6, 4.98).

No pitcher in baseball has surrendered more homers than Hunter, whose 29 allowed ties him with the Angels' Ervin Santana for most in the majors.

The right-hander has given up at least one home run in 11 consecutive starts after yielding a pair at Detroit on Friday. Despite those mistakes, he limited the Tigers to three runs and four hits in six innings before Baltimore's bullpen faltered in a 5-3 loss.

Hunter will get another chance to beat his former team after losing to the Rangers in his first try May 10. Acquired from Texas on July 30, 2011, Hunter permitted four runs and five hits in six innings of a 7-3 loss versus Holland at Camden Yards.

Holland has been reached for 23 homers - tied for seventh most in the league - with 12 of those coming in his last eight starts spanning 54 innings.

"He misses his spot," manager Ron Washington told the team's official website. "He's throwing the ball down the middle of the plate. I've seen changeups leave the ballpark. I've seen fastballs leave the ballpark. Am I missing any of his pitches? In certain counts, he's trying to get the ball in a certain area, and he's missing."

The Orioles (67-56), though, haven't taken Holland deep in the last two matchups, and have managed only three unearned runs against him over 12 innings in those games - both wins for the left-hander.

Holland allowed five runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings Thursday at Yankee Stadium and was in line for the loss before the Rangers rallied for a 10-6 victory.

Baltimore's only homer of this series thus far turned out to be a big one as Nate McLouth's two-run shot capped a four-run fifth and Pedro Strop struck out Josh Hamilton in a key spot to help preserve a 5-3 victory Tuesday. J.J. Hardy and rookie Manny Machado added run-scoring hits in the fifth to help Baltimore win for the 12th time in 17 games.

''Pedy (Strop) got a couple of big outs for us,'' manager Buck Showalter said. "The bullpen has been a constant for us. We've been able to share the load and pass it around."

The Orioles' bullpen threw 2 1-3 scoreless innings Tuesday and has a 1.57 ERA in the last 18 games. Closer Jim Johnson has allowed two hits in eight scoreless innings during that span, converting all seven save opportunities to tie for most in the majors with 38.

That stretch is part of Baltimore's 21-12 record since July 18, matching Tampa Bay and Seattle for most wins in the league in that time. A victory in the finale would give the Orioles wins in five straight road series.

West-leading Texas (71-51), meanwhile, failed for the third time to move a season-high 22 games over .500 and lost to the Orioles for only the second time in 11 meetings.

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