Right-hander Roy Oswalt will make his first start since July 30th for the Texas Rangers as they take on the Toronto Blue Jays in the second matchup of a three-game set at Rogers Centre.
A three-time All-Star and 2005 NLCS MVP, Oswalt returns to a starting role after being moved to the bullpen for the first time in his career to make room for Ryan Dempster in the rotation. Oswalt will be looking to bounce back from his last outing in which he gave up four earned runs to the Red Sox in 1 1/3 innings in relief work on Aug. 8.
The Rangers desperately need Oswalt to improve upon his 4-2 record and 6.53 ERA today as they try to recover from losing four of their last five games. Despite the recent struggles, Texas still owns a five-game lead over Oakland in the AL West standings.
Texas fell, 3-2, to the Blue Jays in the opener despite having its star rookie Yu Darvish on the hill. Darvish pitched well in the losing effort, allowing three runs and three hits while striking out 10, but the Rangers' offense picked up only four hits and went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
Offensively the Rangers are the most productive team in baseball in 2012, however they have been held to two runs or less in four of their last five games.
"We had some chances for a base hit to make a difference," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "If we had made a difference with one base hit, it would have been our victory."
Josh Hamilton cooled off and went hitless on Friday after going 4-for-8 at the plate with two doubles, two home runs, and five runs scored in his previous two games. Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler both went hitless as well in the series opener.
Oswalt's start today is due to Dempster's absence from the team due to undisclosed personal reasons. The Rangers signed Oswalt to a minor league deal in May after he spent a season and a half with the Philadelphia Phillies.
He held Toronto to two hits in a 3-0 Houston victory on June 12, 2005 in his only career start versus the Blue Jays.
Oswalt will be opposed by Dominican right-hander Carlos Villanueva, who comes into Saturday's game looking to snap a personal two-game losing streak. Despite the consecutive losses, Villanueva has gone from long reliever to arguably the Blue Jays' most reliable starting pitcher in a matter of months. Since entering the rotation on June 29, he is 4-2 with a 3.04 ERA while striking out 50 and walking just 13. He comes in with a 6-2 record and a 3.12 ERA after holding the White Sox to one run in seven innings of work on Monday.
Villanueva has the task of following J.A. Happ's strong six-inning, two-hit performance from Friday.
"I think we did a good job trying to keep them off- balance," Happ said. "We used a lot of fastballs early in the game and a couple of changeups as well. I wanted to throw everything with conviction along with the cutter, something I don't throw with enough conviction, and tonight I was able to."
The Blue Jays' victory on Friday ended a three-game skid for the club. Toronto has lost 14 of its last 19 and six of its last nine at home. Edwin Encarnacion was a big part of the triumph on Friday as he belted his team-leading 31st home run of the season.
Despite Encarnacion's production, Toronto went just 4-for-28 as a team in Friday's victory. The Blue Jays rank 21st with a team batting average of .249. The home team's manager, John Farrell, was concerned with the lack of offensive production coming into the series.
The Rangers are 4-3 against the Blue Jays this season.
Toronto won the 2011 season series, 6-4.