A couple of first-place squads get together at Progressive Field this afternoon when the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers play the finale of a three-game set.
The Indians, who are just 5-8 at home this season, still maintain a 1 1/2 game lead over Detroit for the top spot in the American League Central, even after dropping a 5-2 decision in extra innings last night.
Relief pitcher Joe Smith was tagged for a three-run home run by Texas pinch- hitter Adrian Beltre in the top of the 11th inning as the Tribe saw a three- game win streak come to an end. Starting pitcher Derek Lowe allowed two runs on nine hits and a pair of walks, while striking out just one in six innings of action.
"Offensively we've been getting our chances lately, we just haven't been able to cash in...Adrian got a huge hit for us," noted Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler who had two hits himself.
Half of Cleveland's eight hits were credited to Asdrubal Cabrera as he tried to offset Lou Marson and Carlos Santana who both struck out three times.
Over on the other side, Derek Holland gave up two runs -- one earned -- on five hits and three walks, fanning six over 7 1/3 innings but he too failed to earn a decision. Instead it was Alexi Ogando who picked up his first win of the campaign, while Joe Nathan notched his seventh save of the season.
Nelson Cruz scored twice for the visitors, while Mitch Moreland delivered three hits and an RBI for a Texas team which is now 10-4 on the road and leads the AL West by 4 1/2 games over Oakland.
Living up to the hype that he brought over with him from Japan, rookie phenom Yu Darvish guns for his fifth win in as many decisions this afternoon as he takes the hill for the Rangers.
Darvish, who is getting his first-ever look at the Cleveland lineup, has allowed a total of just three earned runs over his last four outings since debuting with five runs surrendered versus Seattle in early April. The right-hander moved to 2-0 on the road Monday when he limited Toronto to just a single run on four hits and a pair of walks, fanning nine over seven innings in a 4-1 triumph.
The 25-year old hurler has gone from 13 walks and 14 K's in his first three outings to a mere four bases-on-balls and 19 strikeouts in the last two contests.
While Darvish appears to have conquered his location issues, the same cannot be said for Ubaldo Jimenez who is set to counter for the Tribe today. Jimenez, currently 2-2 with a 5.02 ERA over the course of five games, threw just 54 strikes on 105 pitches against Chicago on Tuesday, an outing during which he allowed seven runs -- four earned -- on eight hits and an unsightly six walks in 4 2/3 innings.
Over the last three games Jimenez has issued a total of 14 walks and fanned just six in less than 17 innings of action. Overall, the right-hander has 20 bases-on-balls and just 14 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings, so it is easy to see why he has an ERA above five.
For his career, Jimenez has just one previous appearance against Texas, failing to earn a decision as he permitted five runs on seven hits and three walks, striking out seven, in five innings of play.
As a team, the Rangers continue to lead the American League in hitting at an impressive .288 clip, their 144 runs scored the most in the league as well. As if that weren't enough, Texas hurlers rank second in the AL in ERA with a 3.26 mark, allowing opponents to hit just .238 against them.