Rangers open important homestand against Cleveland

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - 12:36am

It may not be the biggest homestand of the year, but to the Texas Rangers, the next six games are a golden opportunity.

The Rangers open a six-game homestand against Cleveland and Seattle Tuesday night, and have a chance to finally open up some space between themselves and the Oakland A’s, who entered Monday’s action just three-and-a-half games behind the division-leading Rangers.

Making things even more tricky is the fact the Rangers are coming off losing two of three games in Tampa Bay over the weekend, the first series loss for the team since being swept by the Yankees in mid-August. On Sunday, Ranger nemesis James Shields tossed a two-hit shutout and B.J. Upton slammed three home runs to give the Rays a 6-0 victory.

“Shields was on,” admitted Ranger manager Ron Washington after Sunday’s game. “If you look at the game, you have to give him credit. When a guy like that is pitching like that, it makes you look like you’re lethargic.”

However, for the Rangers, there is little reason to panic. The team did win six of the 10 games on the road trip, and have won 16 of their last 24 games. Add that to the fact that Cleveland is just 59-81 this season – barely out of the cellar in the American League Central Division – and owns an American League-worst 27-44 road record.

The series begins Tuesday night with Matt Harrison (15-9) taking on Cleveland’s Ubaldo Jimenez (9-15), and Ryan Dempster (10-6) dueling the Indians’ Jeanmar Gomez (5-7) on Wednesday night. Derek Holland goes for his 11th win of the season on Thursday against Zach McAllister, who sports a 5-7 record like Gomez.

The Rangers caught another break when Justin Masterson, the Indians’ best pitcher with 11 wins, pitched in Monday night’s game in Minnesota.

This weekend, Seattle will follow Cleveland into the Ballpark for three games. The Mariners are last in the Western Division after being swept by Oakland over the weekend, and have three games in Toronto before coming to Texas.

Friday’s game takes on some added importance, since Ranger starer Yu Darvish (14-9) hasn’t had much luck or success against Seattle this season. He will face Hisashi Iwakuma (6-4).

Saturday night’s starter is still expected to be Roy Oswalt (4-3), who had to leave Sunday’s game after two innings with muscle soreness in his right elbow. Oswalt has indicated he will be ready to throw on Saturday, and will face Seattle’s Jason Vargas.

“I felt it on one pitch in the first inning, on my slider and it bit me a little bit,” he said. “In a couple of days, it should be alright.”

Of more importance for the Rangers is the fact that Oakland has four games in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels, beginning Thursday. The A's also have series against Baltimore, Detroit and the New York Yankees, before coming back to the Ballpark Sept. 24.

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