Having regained their power in their most recent series, the Texas Rangers will try to keep slugging their way toward a playoff berth.
The Rangers will try to earn some much-needed victories in a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals , another AL wild-card contender, that begins Friday night.
Texas (83-69) hit seven home runs while winning two of its final three games against Tampa Bay, the team that's tied with the Rangers atop the wild-card standings. They went deep three times in the third inning Thursday while cruising to an 8-2 victory.
Before that stretch, Texas didn't have a home run during a season-high seven straight losses.
"You can see how everything's starting to fall on track," said shortstop Elvis Andrus , who has two homers and six RBIs in the last three games. "Everybody's feeling better, relaxed out there."
The Rangers will try to keep heading in the right direction by continuing their recent success against the Royals (80-72), who are three games back in the wild card. Kansas City took two of three from another contender Cleveland earlier this week and has stayed in the race by winning 16 of 24.
"We've got a lot of guys in here that believe we can do it," first baseman Eric Hosmer told the team's official website after a 7-2 win Wednesday. "When you've got guys that are fighting for one goal and doing anything we can to win ballgames, it's real fun to come to the field and play every day, and that's what we're doing."
Texas has won seven of 10 over the Royals and took two of three in the only other matchup this season May 31-June 2.
The Rangers are hoping Martin Perez (9-5, 3.64 ERA) can get this series off to a strong start by regaining his winning form. The left-hander is 0-2 with a 5.56 ERA in two outings since a six-start win streak but had a solid performance Sunday against Oakland, allowing three runs over 6 1-3 innings in a 5-1 loss.
"In September, it's a big month for us. When you like to compete, it's easier when the games are big," he told the team's website. "There is no pressure. I just do what I have to do and throw strikes."
Ervin Santana (9-9, 3.23) will try to build on an impressive outing that snapped a losing streak. Santana gave up five hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 1-0 win in Detroit on Saturday after going 0-3 with a 4.76 ERA in his previous seven outings.
"Everything was working pretty good," Santana said. "I threw a lot of strikes and most of the time ahead in the count. That was the key."
Santana is 2-5 with a 6.89 ERA in his last nine starts against the Rangers but gave up only an unearned run and three hits over seven innings in his only matchup this season, a 3-1 loss June 2.
Perez is facing Kansas City for the first time.
|September 09, 2013||Jim Adduci||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right biceps|
|September 09, 2013||Yu Darvish||Day-to-Day||Left game - right leg cramping|
|August 25, 2013||Leonys Martin||Day-to-Day||Sprained right ankle|
|August 20, 2013||Matt West||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|August 14, 2013||Alexi Ogando||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|August 14, 2013||Alexi Ogando||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|Kansas City Royals|
|September 17, 2013||Carlos Pena||60-Day DL||Appendectomy|
|September 16, 2013||Danny Duffy||Day-to-Day||Flexor tendon inflammation|
|September 08, 2013||Danny Duffy||15-Day DL||Strained left forearm|
|September 05, 2013||Salvador Perez||Day-to-Day||Concussion|
|September 03, 2013||Noel Arguelles||60-Day DL||Left shoulder|
|August 13, 2013||Mike Moustakas||Day-to-Day||Strained left calf|
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Alcides Escobar was going to take the first pitch that Neftali Feliz threw him, no matter what. After that, the Royals shortstop decided to keep taking pitches until he saw a strike.
Turns out he never got to see one.
Escobar walked on four pitches with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning Friday night, giving Kansas City a 2-1 victory over the Texas Rangers in the opener of an important three-game series between teams in the playoff race.
"We had the utmost confidence he was going to get it done right there and he had a great at-bat," said Royals manager Ned Yost , who chose to stick with Escobar despite his .238 batting average and the fact that he had walked just 18 times in more than 600 plate appearances.
Make that 19 times.
"I'm frustrated that I wasn't able to locate where I wanted to, but I understand that's part of the game," Feliz said. "I need to keep my head up and try it again tomorrow."
The Rangers dropped a half-game behind the Indians, which beat Houston 2-1 in a rain-shortened game, for the second AL wild-card spot. The Royals were three games behind the leading Rays, who were locked in an extra-inning game with the Orioles.
"These games are all going to be like this," said Yost, whose Royals (81-72) are already assured of their first non-losing season since 2003. "They're all going to be nail-biters. They're all going to be close."
This one was so close the Rangers and Royals scored matching runs in the second inning, and then started tossing up zeros the rest of the way.
The Royals finally broke through when Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas hit consecutive two-out singles off the Rangers' Jason Frasor (4-3) in the eighth. Pinch-hitter David Lough drew a walk on a full-count pitch, and Rangers manager Ron Washington brought in Feliz.
He promptly walked Escobar as a crowd of 30,000 roared.
Luke Hochevar (5-2) earned the win in relief of Ervin Santana , who allowed one run on five hits in 7 1-3 innings. Greg Holland worked the ninth for his 44th save.
"It stinks when you get taken out and you've got to rely on someone else. It's hard to sit there and watch," Frasor said. "It's a tough spot for Neftali."
The Rangers actually jumped out to an early lead when Adrian Beltre , whose .374 average coming into the game was the best of any current player at Kauffman Stadium, roped a single to lead off the second. It was followed by a double by A.J. Pierzynski for a 1-0 advantage.
The Royals answered in the bottom half when Salvador Perez led off with a double and Justin Maxwell , getting the start in right field, hit a two-out double to tie the game.
Kansas City kept wasting chances in the early innings, though.
Billy Butler grounded into a double play to end the first, and Moustakas grounded into another in the second. The Royals worked back-to-back walks in the fourth before Escobar flied out to center field to end yet another scoring threat.
The most egregious mistake came in the sixth, when Maxwell walked and Escobar was hit by a pitch from Rangers starter Martin Perez . Maxwell took off for third base with Alex Gordon at the plate, and he was easily thrown out by catcher Geovany Soto to end the inning.
Asked whether he was running on his own, Yost replied: "Yeah." Good idea? "Nope."
None of those jams was as tight as the one Santana worked out of in the fifth.
After retiring the first two batters, David Murphy doubled, Leonys Martin singled and Ian Kinsler drew a walk to load the bases. Santana recovered to strike out Elvis Andrus .
The Rangers had another opportunity in the eighth, but Hochever got Andrus to fly out to left and Alex Rios to ground out to first to leave Kinsler standing on first base.
"Every game is so big, and that's what makes it fun," Hochevar said. "The intensity, the electricity in the ballpark that we've had during this push, it's been awesome."
NOTES: RHP Matt Garza goes to the mound for the Rangers on Saturday night. The Royals counter with RHP Jeremy Guthrie . ... Soto gave Pierzynski a night off behind the plate. ... Perez allowed one run on seven hits and four walks in 5 2-3 innings. ... The Royals left 11 runners on base. Texas stranded five.