Twins-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

The Texas Rangers have been doing just fine despite Matt Garza's struggles and Nelson Cruz's suspension.

They could use a few good starts from the former, however, to set up a potential return for the latter in the postseason.

Texas will seek to ride Garza to its 23rd win in 30 games Saturday night against a Minnesota Twins team that has traded Justin Morneau.

The Rangers (78-56) have generally looked fine without Cruz, who is second on the team with 27 home runs and 76 RBIs. They've averaged 6.2 runs in going 16-6 since Cruz was suspended for 50 games due to his connection to the Biogenesis scandal.

He is eligible to come back for the postseason, and Texas could have used him Friday as the Twins (58-75) shut the Rangers out over the final five innings to pick up a come-from-behind 3-2 victory.

The Rangers have been held to 13 runs in their last nine losses and have won 20 straight when they score at least four runs.

Even on a night when their offense wasn't in sync, the Rangers received good news, as Cruz will look to stay sharp in the Arizona Instructional League.

"The key to him is just seeing live pitching," manager Ron Washington said. "If we end up getting in the playoffs, we're not looking for him to come and carry us. Just be a part of that lineup. He'll hurt somebody."

As a result of their usually good offense, the Rangers have won five of Garza's first seven starts since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs, and he's 3-2 over that stretch despite a 4.44 ERA.

The right-hander allowed three earned runs in his first 14 1-3 innings with Texas. Since then, Garza has allowed at least four runs in five straight starts.

"He's a tremendous pitcher," Washington said. "He'll get comfortable and start winning us some ballgames."

His struggles carried into Sunday, when he allowed five runs in seven innings of a 5-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

"I just felt a little out of sync, like I was trying to do too much," Garza said. "You get ahead of yourself and sometimes you've just got to take a step back to put the whole thing in."

Garza, who allowed 10 home runs over his first 14 starts, has allowed six over his last four.

He won't have to worry about facing Morneau, who was traded to Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Morneau had been with the Twins for 11 seasons, winning the American League MVP award in 2006 and becoming one of the best hitters in the game until a concussion knocked him out of action in 2010.

Minnesota's Mike Pelfrey (5-10, 5.06) has pitched better since returning from a stint on the disabled list with a back strain. In 10 starts since being activated July 4, the right-hander has a 3.72 ERA.

He has only two wins to show for it, however, as the Twins have provided him with 24 runs during that stretch.

Pelfrey has made it through seven innings once this season. He needed 94 pitches to get through five Sunday, due in no small part to a career-high six walks.

"Way too many walks. It's pretty embarrassing, to go out there and walk six guys," said Pelfrey, who did not earn a decision in a 3-1 loss at Cleveland. "I thought it was a wasted day. Obviously I had good movement and I had good stuff. The velocity was there. I just couldn't throw it over the plate."

Pelfrey has faced Texas once in his career, yielding four runs in six innings of an 8-1 loss while with the New York Mets in 2011.

Garza held the Twins to three runs in seven innings of a 3-2 loss in 2009 while pitching for Tampa Bay.

The Twins snapped a five-game losing streak Friday, and they've scored nine times in their past six contests.

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