Orioles-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

The Baltimore Orioles have pounded their way to their longest winning streak over the Texas Rangers in 10 years.

Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz will try to maintain their slugging ways Thursday night as the Orioles go for a three-game sweep of the Rangers.

Baltimore (30-27) is batting .340 with seven homers and 27 runs during its four-game winning streak, which is now one shy of its season high.

The Orioles have also been consistent at the plate while winning seven straight against Texas, compiling a .316 average with nine homers. Wednesday night's 6-5 win gave them their longest winning streak in the all-time series dating to a nine-game run from 2003-04.

Baltimore has 30 hits - four of them homers - with 14 runs in the first two games of the set.

"We've been having good at-bats up there," said Markakis, who homered and had an RBI single. "Seems like when they get the ball over the plate, we've been getting good swings on it and finding the hole, finding the gap."

Markakis has five hits and three RBIs in the series, giving him a .380 average during a 12-game road hitting streak.

Cruz has put together his own impressive stretch, batting .462 with nine homers and 18 RBIs over his last 15 games. A member of the Rangers from 2006-13, the left fielder has four hits, including a homer, while driving in three runs in his first matchup against his former team.

Such offensive support has certainly been a big help to Chris Tillman (5-2, 4.63 ERA), who owns the rotation's highest road ERA at 5.51 in eight starts, yet is still 5-0.

The right-hander has been supported by an average of 7.04 runs over that stretch, but he didn't need much at Houston on Saturday. He allowed one run and four hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-1 win, a significant bounceback after surrendering 14 runs in 6 2-3 innings over his previous two outings.

Tillman has won three straight games at Arlington behind a 2.05 ERA.

The Rangers (29-30) have dropped four of five, but Adrian Beltre is certainly doing his part. Beltre homered three times, and has five hits overall, with six RBIs over his past two games.

The third baseman drove in a season-high five runs Wednesday, continuing a torrid stretch against Baltimore. He's hitting .380 with 13 homers while plating 29 runs over his last 22 meetings with the Orioles, and is also 3 for 8 with a double and homer off Tillman.

Like Tillman, Colby Lewis (4-4, 5.44) takes the hill looking for more consistency.

The right-hander, who missed all of last year because of Tommy John surgery, has alternated wins and losses over his past five starts, compiling a 1.59 ERA in two victories compared to a 9.98 ERA in defeats.

In this case, he will look for his down-and-then-up trend to continue after being tagged for six runs and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 9-2 loss at Washington on Friday.

"Each time he takes the mound is a new experience and he is strengthening himself as he goes along," manager Ron Washington told the team's official website.

Lewis is 1-3 with a 5.74 ERA over his last four starts against the Orioles. He's facing them for the first time since May 10, 2012, when he served up a career-high five homers and allowed six runs in seven innings of a 6-5 road defeat.

He's given up home runs on both of Markakis' hits in 13 at-bats against him, and J.J. Hardy has a pair of homers of his own against Lewis while going 4 for 12.

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