Suffering from a season-long five-game slide, the Texas Rangers might have bigger concerns heading into the weekend as they play the middle test of a three-game set against the Minnesota Twins at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
The Rangers are still four games up in the American League West over the LA Angels even though they've split their last 10 outings, but the more pressing issue right now is the health of slugger Josh Hamilton who was forced to exit Friday's meeting with back spasms.
Hamilton is currently listed as day-to-day, which is not exactly the news the Rangers were looking for as they tried to figure out their offensive woes. During this current slide, which includes a 5-1 setback in the series opener last night, Texas has generated a total of just nine runs, compared to 34 for the opposition.
"We've hit a funk," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "We're just going to fight. That's all we can do. We still have a lot of baseball left. Right now, we're certainly not playing the way we want to play. We're going to show up tomorrow and battle again, hope that things go in our favor. We'll keep working."
With the league's RBI leader on the bench Friday, Texas generated just a single run on six hits as starter Martin Perez was saddled with his first loss of 2012. The hurler permitted four runs -- two earned -- on six hits and three walks, while striking out three over the course of six innings.
On the other side, Minnesota's Francisco Liriano registered just his third win of the campaign, against seven defeats, as he limited the Rangers to the single run on five hits over 6 2/3 innings. Liriano was a bit wild with his control, logging just as many walks (six) as strikeouts.
Justin Morneau delivered his 11th home run of the season, one of his two hits for Minnesota, as he plated a pair in the victory. Joe Mauer, now hitting .329, added a pair of RBI as well for a club that snapped a two-game losing streak with the win on Friday.
Heading to the mound for his final appearance before the All-Star break will be Derek Holland for the Rangers.
The Ohio native, who was recently on the 15-day DL due to shoulder fatigue, is getting ready to throw against major league talent for the first time since June 5 when he and the Rangers secured a 6-3 win over Oakland on the road.
In that game versus the Athletics, Holland permitted three runs on seven hits, including a pair of home runs, walking two and fanning a pair in 5 1/3 innings before making his exit.
The left-hander has pitched in six games previously against Minnesota in his career, putting up a 2-2 mark with a 4.50 ERA in the process.
Making his first career start for the Twins in this meeting will be Samuel Deduno. The right-hander most recently pitched for Triple-A Rochester in the minors where he posted a 2.14 ERA and logged 46 strikeouts in 42 innings.
In order to move Deduno onto the roster Minnesota was forced to option first baseman Chris Parmalee down to Rochester.
Because of the efforts of Adrian Beltre (.324) and Hamilton (.314), the Rangers have the top overall batting average in the majors at .280, a number that is dramatically better than the competition which is hitting a collective .248 through 84 games.
Should Hamilton fail to make an appearance today, the Rangers offense will lean even heavier on Beltre and Nelson Cruz who are second and third on the roster in RBI with 53 and 51, respectively.
Minnesota, which is last in the AL Central and has the worst run differential (minus-85) in all of baseball, has the highest collective ERA in the league at 4.94 as opponents hit a robust .280 versus Twins hurlers.
Minnesota has won the season series against the Rangers in each of the previous three years, but began this weekend series trailing 3-0 after Texas swept the squad in Minneapolis in the middle of April.
Even though they got off on the wrong foot yesterday, the Rangers still enjoy the best home record in the AL at 27-16 heading into the weekend.