Rangers-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

The Texas Rangers are somehow still holding onto an AL wild-card spot despite a seven-game losing streak.

The Tampa Bay Rays can add to the Rangers' woes and bolster their chances of hosting that wild-card contest next month.

These contenders are headed in opposite directions as they continue a four-game set Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.

These clubs began this series tied for the AL's wild-card spots, and Tampa Bay (82-67) won 6-2 on Monday to grab the slot that would give it home-field advantage. The Rays have won four of five following a stretch in which they lost five of six.

"It's big ... just to come out here and beat this team,'' said Rays rookie Wil Myers, who homered and drove in three runs.

Texas (81-68) remained one-half game ahead of Cleveland. The Rangers lead Baltimore by two games and the Yankees and Kansas City by 2 1/2.

Manager Ron Washington's club will try to avoid its first eight-game skid since Aug. 8-16, 2005. Incredibly, the Rangers have not led in any game in this slide.

A players-only meeting before Monday's defeat did not revive an offense that managed six hits in the series opener and has totaled 20 runs with no homers over the last seven games.

"I don't think the dictionary or the encyclopedia or the thesaurus have the word I am right now," Washington said. "I'm not frustrated, I'm confused. I'm trying to figure out what we have to do to jump-start this offense. It's shown throughout the year that it's capable; we just haven't been able to get it done."

Mitch Moreland had a double in three at-bats Monday but that's his only hit in his last 24. Lance Berkman went 0 for 4 in his first start since Sept. 3 after he was limited to one pinch-hitting appearance since due to left hip and right knee injuries.

The Rays were opportunistic with six hits in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position. James Loney and Evan Longoria both had RBI singles in a four-run fifth inning capped by Myers' two-run double to go along with his earlier homer.

"Those were really big knocks right there,'' manager Joe Maddon said of Myers.

Alexi Ogando (6-4, 3.23 ERA) will make his first start since Aug. 13 for Texas. The right-hander went on the disabled list a week after that outing with shoulder inflammation, and has pitched six scoreless innings of relief over four appearances since returning Sept. 4.

"He has been throwing the ball well," Washington told the Rangers' official website. "Maybe we can get three or four innings out of him. We're going to give him a chance to do it."

Ogando is 5-4 with a 3.47 ERA in 15 starts this year, including his 5-4 victory over the Rays on April 8 in which he yielded one run over 5 1-3 innings. Longoria is 4 for 6 against him and Matt Joyce 3 for 4.

Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson (11-8, 5.04) gave up three runs over five innings when he opposed Ogando on April 8 to fall to 0-3 with a 3.86 ERA in four career starts (one postseason) versus the Rangers. Texas is the only AL team he has never beaten besides Houston, whom he has never faced.

Adrian Beltre is 4 for 6 with two homers overall against Hellickson and Moreland is 3 for 6.

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