Falling back to the rest of the pack in the American League West, the Texas Rangers find themselves suffering through a three-game slide as they contend against the Cleveland Indians as they enter the middle test of a three-game run at Progressive Field tonight.
While the Rangers are still in control of the division, 4 1/2 games ahead of second-place Oakland, the squad has to be a bit concerned with the fact that they've dropped four of their last five outings after bowing in just five of their first 21 contests to kick off the 2012 campaign.
Last night Texas was dealt a 6-3 setback, dropping the team to 9-4 on the road as starting pitcher Colby Lewis suffered his first setback of the season, giving up all six runs on 10 hits, striking out just two, over 6 2/3 innings. Mitch Moreland, David Murphy and Michael Young all posted a pair of hits, the latter knocking in two runs for the visitors.
Picking up his second win of the year was Cleveland starter Jeanmar Gomez who permitted three runs on eight hits through seven innings, with Chris Perez tossing a hitless ninth en route to his 10th save.
"He just gave us a great seven innings against that baseball team," Cleveland manager Manny Acta said of Gomez.
Shin-Soo Choo connected on a two-run homer, Jack Hannahan delivered a solo shot and Johnny Damon plated a pair with a triple in the seventh inning for his new team as the Indians logged their third win in a row and maintained a 1 1/2 game lead over Detroit for first place in the AL Central.
Attempting to snap a personal two-game slide tonight is lefty Derek Holland for the Rangers. The Ohio native last threw on Sunday versus Tampa Bay when he was tagged for five runs on nine hits and a couple of walks and despite striking out eight over seven innings he still absorbed the loss in a 5-2 decision.
Now in just his fourth season in the majors Holland, who has seen his ERA spike to 5.13 entering the month of May, has a record of 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA in three previous appearances against the Indians.
As for the Tribe, they have their own Derek taking the mound tonight as Mr. Lowe shoots for his fifth win of the season. Now in his 16th campaign, the Michigan native held the Angels without an earned run last weekend as he worked through 7 2/3 innings en route to the 170th victory of his career.
Lowe, a perfect 3-0 at home thus far in 2012, has a record of 3-3 with a 3.14 ERA all-time versus Texas, making the majority of his 25 appearances in a relief role which also earned him five saves.
Lowe might have his hands full tonight however, considering the Rangers are first in the majors in both team batting average (.287) and slugging percentage (.467) and are stops in the AL in runs scored (139). Much of the credit goes to Josh Hamilton who is tied for the league lead in home runs with nine and is also first with 25 RBI. Add in the fact that the Rangers have the second-best team ERA in the league (3.38) and it is easy to see why the club is first in the AL and second in the majors in scoring differential (plus 46).
Cleveland's pitching staff has a respectable 4.06 ERA at the moment and is third in the league in saves with 10, which means it is the hitters who could stand a bit more production, particularly when it comes to extra-base hits as they rank 10th in the league in home runs (23) and 12th in doubles (41).
Despite the setback last night, Texas has dominated the series the last several years, posting a mark of 21-5 dating back to the 2009 campaign.