Royals-Rangers Preview


The spotlight may be on Josh Hamilton, but Nelson Cruz's recent play is deserving of attention, too.

The Texas Rangers hope two of baseball's most locked-in sluggers can keep producing as they try to split this two-game set with the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night.

Hamilton leads the majors with a .400 average, 18 homers and 44 RBIs, and was named AL player of the week Monday after collecting nine homers and 18 RBIs last week.

While he's perhaps the big reason the Rangers (23-13) own the league's best record, Cruz is doing his part to spur the two-time reigning AL champions.

The right fielder is hitting .469 with eight RBIs in the past eight games and has homered in his last two, though his solo shot was all Texas managed in Monday's 3-1 loss to Kansas City (14-20).

That stretch has spiked Cruz's season average 57 points to .273, and he's homered in each of the last three meetings with the Royals - all at home.

Hamilton has struggled against Kansas City, especially at Rangers Ballpark, batting .190 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 14 meetings there. He had a single Monday to increase his hitting streak to 14 games.

Colby Lewis (3-2, 3.69 ERA) would appreciate some production from Hamilton and Cruz as he tries to avoid losing a third straight start for the first time since April 9-25, 2011.

The right-hander has surrendered 12 runs and 15 hits, including seven homers, in 13 2-3 innings while losing his last two trips to the mound. He had been 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his previous five.

Lewis served up homers to the first three batters he faced Thursday in Baltimore. He surrendered two more over the next six innings, though he struck out 12 in the 6-5 loss.

"I can't justify that game," Lewis said. "It seemed like one of those days where you have really good stuff and then you miss your spot or something and it's just not a hit, it's a homer. You can't really look at it any other way. It was just kind of weird game."

Lewis' first look at the Royals in eight years didn't go particularly well last May 27. He allowed six runs - four earned - in six innings of a 12-7, 14-inning home loss.

Kansas City has won five of six and three in a row to match its longest winning streak of the season.

Alcides Escobar has given the Royals a lift offensively by going 8 for 16 with three doubles and five RBIs in his last five games. The shortstop had a single and drove in two Monday, giving him a .345 average in his last eight meetings with Texas.

Vin Mazzaro is slated to get his first start of 2012 as Kansas City shuffles its rotation following an injury to left-hander Danny Duffy, who likely is facing Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament.

Mazzaro's only appearance of the season thus far came Friday, when he tossed a perfect eighth inning in a 5-0 loss at Chicago after being recalled from Triple-A Omaha last Tuesday.

The right-hander was 1-1 with an 8.26 ERA in seven games with Kansas City last season. He's 0-1 with a 9.49 ERA in three games - two starts - versus Texas.