Series Preview #35: Texas Rangers (56-46) at Cleveland Indians (53-48)

The last time the Cleveland Indians encountered the Texas Rangers, they helped to end the worst stretch of baseball played by the Indians this season. This time around, they will again look to the Rangers to help improve a second half record that has started off at just 2-4.

The second-place Rangers (56-46) trail the Oakland A’s by three games in the American League West and are a half-game back in the wild card race.

The second-place Indians (53-48) trail the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central by three games as well, but are three games back in the wild card pursuit.

Corey Kluber will return to the mound for the Tribe on Friday night at 7:05 PM ET as he takes on young left-hander Martin Perez. Kluber (7-5, 3.69 ERA) is 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA in his last five starts in Cleveland. Perez (3-3, 3.40) will make his eighth start of the season for the Rangers and has allowed nine earned runs in his last two starts.

Saturday’s 7:05 PM ET start will feature an All-Star caliber matchup on the field, as American League representatives Justin Masterson and Yu Darvish will toe the rubber at Progressive Field. Masterson (11-7, 3.60) took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and allowed just one hit in the ball game against Minnesota, striking out eight in his first start of the second half. Darvish (9-4, 2.86) allowed just two hits in six and one-third innings against the New York Yankees in his first start since the break.

Ubaldo Jimenez and Alexi Ogando will start in Sunday’s 1:05 PM ET finale. Jimenez (7-5, 4.49) took the loss in Seattle in his last start after giving up two solo home runs. Ogando (4-2, 3.13) pitched in his first game in over a month last week after returning from the 15-day disabled list.

Indians broadcasts of all three games can be seen on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and heard on the Cleveland Indians Radio Network. Friday’s start in Texas can be seen on TXA-21. Both Saturday and Sunday’s games will be available on Fox Sports Southwest. All three will be broadcast on the Rangers ESPN Radio Network.

Saturday’s stellar matchup can also be seen on the MLB Network.

Just like their previous series in Minnesota, the Indians won the final game of the series despite solid starting efforts in all three ball games.

Three solo home runs made up the scoring on Monday night, but two of them were in favor of Seattle, as Jimenez was dealt his fifth loss of the season by way of a 2-1 final. Nick Swisher, in his first at bat as the new number two hitter in Terry Francona’s lineup, homered to left. Kendrys Morales homered to right in the fourth to tie the game and Mike Zunino did likewise to left in the fifth to give the Mariners the advantage. Tom Wilhelmsen earned his 22nd save.

Errors were again the story of the night Tuesday for the Indians, as three blunders on the field and a big one running the bases cost the Indians the middle game of the series, 4-3. Yan Gomes hit his seventh home run of the season in the second; the two-run shot gave the Indians a 3-1 lead at the time. A three-run third gave the lead back to the Mariners. Wilhelmsen earned his 23rd save of the season, after there were runners on the corners with nobody out in the ninth and Drew Stubbs was caught between third and home on the backend of a rally-killing double play.

The Indians won in grand fashion in the Wednesday afternoon finale by the final score of 10-1. Scott Kazmir allowed just one unearned run on one hit over eight dominant innings and struck out seven. Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana supplied three first inning runs on doubles. Santana doubled Cabrera home again in the third. Michael Bourn’s two-out, 3-2 grand slam broke the game open. Cabrera drove in his third of the day with a homer in the sixth. Joe Saunders took his first loss of July.

The Indians have committed nine errors in their first six games after the All-Star break. All four of their losses since the break have come by one run.

Despite their 2-4 start to the second half, the effort of the pitching staff has accounted for a Major League-best 1.62 ERA in those first six games. The pitching has allowed just a .173 batting average against, the lowest average allowed in all of baseball. The same can be said for their collective 1.02 WHIP.

Just nine of the 14 runs allowed in the second half have been earned. Both marks represent the fewest number of runs and earned runs allowed in the second half in the MLB so far.

The Rangers split a four-game series with the Yankees earlier this week.

Texas defeated New York, 3-0, on Monday behind a strong pitching effort from Darvish. His bullpen allowed just one baserunner in two and two-thirds inning of relief. The Rangers got RBI hits from Adrian Beltre and Giovanni Soto and a Nelson Cruz home run late in the game. Joe Nathan saved his 31st game of the year.

The Yankees rallied with two runs in the ninth to come from behind in a 5-4 victory in Texas on Tuesday. Ogando allowed three runs on six hits in five innings. Nathan blew the save in the ninth after three straight base runners reached against him. Vernon Wells, who walked with one out, scored on a triple by Eduardo Nunez to tie the game, and the next batter, former Indians utility man Brent Lillibridge, drove him in with an RBI-single to left. Mariano Rivera saved his 32nd of the season on his farewell tour.

Matt Garza won his Rangers debut as Texas hit a pair of home runs to take the lead and put some distance late on the way to a 3-1 win Wednesday. Garza pitched into the eighth inning, struck out five, and allowed one unearned run on five hits. A.J. Pierzynski drove in a run with a single in the first and added another with his solo homer in the eighth. David Murphy provided some cushion with a solo home run of his own in the eighth. Nathan pitched to two batters and earned his 32nd save of the year in the ninth.

The Yankees earned the split in Texas on Thursday behind seven scoreless innings from Hiroki Kuroda, who paced New York to a 2-0 victory. Derek Holland pitched into the eighth inning and allowed an RBI-double in the sixth to Lillibridge and a run scoring fielder’s choice to Nunez in the eighth. Rivera saved his 33rd.

Elvis Andrus has hit successfully in all 34 career games against the Cleveland Indians. The streak is the single longest in Rangers history against any one opponent. It is tied with George Bell (June 1st, 1985 through August 8th, 1987) for the second longest streak ever against the Tribe. Ken Griffey Jr. owns the longest mark at 35 games, completed between June 24th, 1992 and August 6th, 1996.

Their team ERA this season is 3.68, second-best in the AL. Their bullpen ERA of 2.95 is the best in the AL and third-best in baseball.

The Rangers will head home after the weekend for a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels. The White Sox will come to Cleveland to start a four-game set, beginning Monday night.

Photo: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

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