Josh Hamilton finally seems to be pulling out of his slump. The Texas Rangers hope Matt Harrison's brief funk doesn't go any further.
Harrison will try to avoid losing a third straight start while Hamilton and the rest of the AL West-leading Rangers look to continue their offensive barrage Friday night in the opener of a three-game set against the Kansas City Royals.
Hamilton went 6 for 19 with two doubles, a homer and five RBIs in this week's four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels after hitting .113 with one homer over his previous 14 contests. The 2010 AL MVP was booed during last Friday's 9-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox while going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, and manager Ron Washington gave him Saturday off.
Hamilton hit .177 in July, but he continued his recent resurgence with two hits and four RBIs in Thursday's 15-9 victory over the Angels.
"Basically I've said stop thinking about it, stop listening to everybody - everybody's got something to say," Hamilton said. "Just go out there and play. React. Try to slow the game down again. It worked. There's nothing wrong with my swing, it's just about trusting myself, not being too aggressive and trying to slow the game down again."
The Rangers (61-43) collected 26 runs and 35 hits - six by Ian Kinsler - while winning the last two games against the Angels, who had pulled within three games in the division by taking the first two. Texas now leads Oakland by 4 1/2 games and Los Angeles by five.
Harrison (12-6, 3.19 ERA) has been instrumental to the Rangers' success this year, but he's been hit hard in his last two starts.
The left-hander has given up nine runs and 15 hits - three homers - over 13 innings in losses to the Angels and White Sox. Harrison had gone 8-1 with a 1.34 ERA in his previous 10 outings.
He hasn't dropped three starts in a row since a career-worst four-game skid April 20-May 6, 2011.
Harrison is 2-1 with a 4.37 ERA in four starts against the Royals (44-60). He's making his first start at Kansas City since a victory Aug. 27, 2008, when he yielded one earned run in 6 2-3 innings.
He may want to be wary of Alcides Escobar, who has gone 9 for 22 with eight RBIs in his last five games and is batting a career-best .307 this season.
The shortstop came up big again Thursday, hitting a game-ending RBI single in a 7-6, 11-inning win over Cleveland as Kansas City finished a three-game sweep.
"He's been carrying us pretty much the whole way," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "He did what he's been doing all year. He came up with the big hit and a big sweep in the division."
A fourth straight win would match the Royals' longest run of the season, but that may be difficult with Jeremy Guthrie (0-2, 9.58) on the mound. The right-hander has lost both of his starts with Kansas City after being acquired from Colorado last month, and he's 0-8 with a 7.76 ERA in his last 13 games - nine starts - overall.
Guthrie was pounded by Seattle last Friday, surrendering six runs and 11 hits - two homers - in 5 1-3 innings of a 6-1 loss.
Since 2010, Guthrie is 0-2 with a 4.32 ERA in five games - four starts - versus Texas. Hamilton is 5 for 12 with two doubles and two homers against him in that stretch.