Rangers-Orioles Preview

The Associated Press

The two-time defending AL champion Texas Rangers dominated the last-place Baltimore Orioles last season, outscoring them by 29 runs over six games.

The teams don't appear to be as mismatched in 2012.

Baltimore has won five straight over traditional powers to seize the AL's best record, though it might be a bit fatigued as it looks to extend that streak Monday night in the opener of a four-game set against visiting Texas.

The Rangers (18-10) beat the Orioles five times in 2011 while Baltimore finished at the bottom of the AL East for the fourth straight season.

Texas outscored the Orioles 46-17 while plating 13 runs three times and Michael Young went 12 for 20 while the Rangers won the series' final five games.

Baltimore (19-9) seems like it might provide a bit more resistance this season.

After beating the New York Yankees on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Orioles completed a sweep in Boston with Sunday's 9-6 win in 17 innings. Former Ranger Chris Davis - who struck out five times and went 0 for 8 as Baltimore's designated hitter - pitched the 16th and 17th and Adam Jones' three-run homer allowed Davis to become the first AL position player to record a win since Rocky Colavito in 1968.

"Just when you think you've seen it all, some days you come out here and just assume the position. That was fun,'' manager Buck Showalter said. "It was a long day, but you like to get something good out of it.''

Monday is the first chance for Davis, who came into Sunday's game hitting .400 (14 for 35) with four homers and 10 RBIs in his last 10, to face the team that traded him as part of a package for Koji Uehara at last season's deadline.

His old club has lost four of five after falling 4-2 in Cleveland on Sunday. Texas went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position after coming in hitting .326 on the road with men on second or third.

"All of our problems could be solved if we would just drive in some runs in situations," manager Ron Washington said. "The name of the game is scoring runs.''

Josh Hamilton is hitting .395 with two homers in his last nine games against the Orioles, and Nelson Cruz is batting .361 with six homers and 28 RBIs while hitting safely in 24 of 28 career contests versus Baltimore.

They'll face Brian Matusz (1-3, 4.67 ERA), who hopes his last outing is a sign of things to come.

Matusz allowed one run in 6 1-3 innings of a 7-1 victory over the Yankees on Tuesday, ending a streak of 14 consecutive winless starts. He went 0-12 with a 10.47 ERA during that stretch dating back to a win June 6 against Oakland.

"Game by game, I'm feeling like I'm getting better and better," Matusz told the team's official website. "It feels good to be able to go out there and attack the zone with confidence, to be able to come away with (a win)."

The left-hander is 2-1 with a 6.64 ERA in four lifetime starts versus the Rangers, though he held them to five hits in eight innings at Camden Yards on Aug. 19, 2010, in his most recent outing. Cruz is 4 for 7 with two doubles and a homer off Matusz, while Hamilton is 0 for 7.

Texas counters with Matt Harrison (3-2, 5.40), who after winning his first three starts with a 1.66 ERA has pitched miserably in back-to-back outings.

Harrison allowed seven runs and 14 hits in five innings of an 8-4 loss to Tampa Bay on April 27, then gave up a career-high-tying eight runs in 3 1-3 of an 11-5 loss at Toronto on Wednesday.

The left-hander is 3-0 with a 4.68 ERA in four starts against Baltimore.

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