by Frank Martin
The Texas Rangers haven’t exactly been hurting for home runs threats in their lineup since the return of Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz. Even so, they probably don’t mind that Ian Kinsler has rediscovered his power stroke. Kinsler has blasted three homers as the Rangers have taken the first two at Minute Maid Park from the Houston Astros.
The Astros haven’t done much winning at all this season, and own the worst record in the major leagues by a substantial margin. Avoiding a sweep at the hands of the Rangers could make a terrible June a little brighter. Houston will send Wandy Rodriguez to the mound in search of that goal when the Astros host the Rangers on Thursday night.
Rodriguez lost for the first time since April 24 last week, surrendering five runs on six hits in six innings against the Tampa Bay Rays. The setback snapped a string of seven straight quality starts for the lefthander during which he posted a 1.31 ERA. Rodriguez has struggled at times against the American League, posting a 7-10 record with a 5.55 ERA in 21 career interleague starts.
Harrison has been just as dominant as Rodriguez lately, putting up a 1.95 ERA over his last eight starts. The lefthander was a rotation afterthought for Texas prior to the season but has become a fixture, sliding nicely into one of the spots vacated by the injured Tommy Hunter and Scott Feldman. Harrison has yet to lose in interleague play this season, going 2-0 with a 0.83 ERA in three starts.
Houston managed to steal one from the Rangers in Arlington last week, but the hope of evening the six-game season series came to an end with a 3-2 defeat in the second game of the current series Wednesday. The Astros could not solve Colby Lewis through the first six innings and became one of the few teams to not have any success against the Texas bullpen.
Houston has lost five straight during its most recent slide, dropping five games behind the Kansas City Royals (33-48) and the Chicago Cubs (33-48) for the worst record in the majors. It seems to be only a matter of time before the Astros start taking trade offers from other teams on valuable players such as Rodriguez, Brett Myers and Hunter Pence.
Kinsler had been mired in a terrible power slump, going 10 games without a blast and homering only once since May 29. In fact, the slugging leadoff man had failed to drive in any runs at all in nine consecutive games before plating three in the series opener against the Astros on Tuesday. Kinsler went deep in his final at-bat in that game and then again in his first two chances against Brett Myers on Wednesday. Texas’ success against its interleague rival has helped keep the club ahead of the surging Los Angeles Angels in the American League West.
Hamilton sits third in the AL All-Star balloting among outfielders, holding a narrow lead over Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Since he missed six weeks with a broken bone in his arm, Hamilton probably does not have the bulk of statistics needed to make the roster without the fans' help. Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday.
boston red sox - brett myers - brett myers - chicago cubs - colby lewis - houston astros - hunter pence - ian kinsler - jacoby ellsbury - josh hamilton