While the Texas Rangers are looking to open some breathing room in the AL West race over the final weeks of the season, the Cleveland Indians are trying to stave off elimination for one more day. The Rangers hope to continue their domination of the Indians by capping a three-game sweep Thursday night. With Wednesday's 9-1 rout, the Rangers (85-64) maintained their three-game lead over the Angels with 13 games remaining for both teams. Texas and Los Angeles will close the regular season at Angel Stadium from Sept. 26-28.
The Rangers have outscored the Indians 19-5 over the last two games. Josh Hamilton's grand slam capped an eight-run fourth inning Wednesday. The 2010 AL MVP has homered in each of the first two games of this series and is batting .361 (13 for 36) with four homers and 15 RBIs against the Indians this year. Shortstop Elvis Andrus is hitting .388 (33 for 85) during a 22-game hitting streak against Cleveland, the second-longest active run versus an opponent behind Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury, who's hit in 29 straight against Baltimore.
Andrus has gone 4 for 11 (.364) this season against Indians scheduled starter Fausto Carmona (6-14, 5.18 ERA). The right-hander is 0-2 with a 6.84 ERA in five starts since beating the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 17. He's allowed opponents to hit at a .340 clip and has pitched into the seventh inning just once over that span. Following back-to-back home losses, Carmona didn't factor in Saturday's 7-3, 10-inning walkoff loss to the White Sox. He lasted 5 1-3 innings, and was reached for three runs and six hits. Carmona is now winless over his last five outings and has posted a 6.76 ERA over that stretch.
Cleveland (72-74) got off to a shocking 20-8 start this year, but couldn't overcome repeated injuries to Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo and Travis Hafner, and will be eliminated with a loss and a Detroit win at Oakland later Thursday. The Indians are expected to have Choo back in the lineup for the first time since Aug. 27 after recovering from a strained oblique. Choo, who missed nearly two months with a broken thumb suffered in June, is batting only .260 with eight homers and 36 RBIs. Texas hopes another matchup with Cleveland will help Alexi Ogando (12-8, 3.71) end his recent struggles.
Starting against Cleveland for the first time on June 3, Ogando held the Indians to a run and four hits over eight innings as Texas cruised to an 11-2 win. The right-hander was 6-0 with a 2.20 ERA at that point, but has since gone 6-8 with a 5.00 ERA, and hasn't won since beating the Angels on Aug. 15. The converted reliever also has dropped each of his last three starts, allowing 12 runs in 11 2-3 innings. Ogando was tagged for five runs in five innings of Saturday's 8-7 home loss to Oakland.
We get a steal of a price here in a favorable hitters ballpark, and while Cleveland's struggles to capitalize driving in runsmay have cost them a postseason spot, a positive finish will only benefit Manny Acta for the 2012 season. The Indians are hitting only .247 and are 9th in the AL with 138 HR, but could experience truer fortune against Ogando who after a dominating start has fallen back to reality. Carlos Santana (.236) recently took over the team lead in HR with 23 and his 72 RBI are second to Asdrubul Cabrera (.268 22 82). Briging back Jim Thome (.242 13 43) was a nice gesture and a last resort ramp up to now deceased postseason hopes, and it's unknown if or who he will be retained by next season. Meanwhile, Texas is trying to rack up as many wins as possible down the stretch in hopes of distancing themselves between the Angels, whom they still have 3 games remaining. Texas leads the AL in hitting with a .280 BA and is third in the league with 186 HR. Ian Kinsler (.251) belted his 29th HR last night and now has driven in 73 runs. Nelson Cruz (.270 28 84) has been solid despite battling injuries, as has Hamilton (.296 21 87) whose slam last night broke it open. Mike Napoli (.310) leads the Rangers in hitting to go with his 26 HR and 67 RBI. Look for the Rangers to be sitting on Carmona's variety of pitches and we expect a ton of runs this evening early and often. Best of luck however you play!