Matt Harrison will try to overcome his troubles with the Blue Jays today as the Texas Rangers conclude their three-game series with Toronto at Rogers Centre.
Pitching has been key so far in the low-scoring series. Texas held on for a 2-1 victory on Saturday to rebound from a loss in the series opener. Rangers 34-year old starter Roy Oswalt gave up one run in 4 2/3 innings and the bullpen managed to hold Toronto scoreless the rest of the way.
Offensively, the Rangers are the most productive team in baseball in 2012, however they have been held to two runs or less in five of their last six games. Second baseman Ian Kinsler is 0-for-18 at the plate during that span. Slugger Josh Hamilton is producing once again after a post-All Star break slump. Hamilton is 14-for-40 with five home runs and 11 RBI in his last 11 games.
The left-handed Harrison will take the hill today for Texas, which has sole possession of first place in the American League West by five games.
Despite his outstanding season overall, he is just 0-2 over five appearances, four of which were starts, against Toronto with a 12.00 ERA, which is his worst against any MLB team. He allowed a season-high eight runs over 3 1/3 innings at Toronto in an 11-5 loss in early May.
Harrison allowed just one run in 6 1/3 innings to the dangerous lineup of the Yankees on Tuesday, but still lost for the third time in five outings as the Rangers were shut out.
"I felt strong," Harrison said after losing the terrific pitchers' duel to Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda. "I didn't feel as strong as I did in the first inning, but as you make pitches, your focus level is definitely higher."
Harrison is 2-4 with a respectable 3.40 ERA in his last seven starts.
The Blue Jays will start Harrison Alvarez, who is coming off of Tuesday's tough loss to the White Sox. Alvarez saw his record drop to 7-10 despite allowing only two earned runs on seven hits over seven innings.
"I'm pleased with the way I pitched tonight," Alvarez said through an interpreter. "I was more consistent with my pitches. All of my pitches were down and I was pitching in and out. I was throwing more on the corners tonight."
Alvarez will be facing the Rangers for the second time in his career. He allowed five runs over 5 2/3 innings and gave up home runs to Nelson Cruz and Mitch Moreland in the no decision.
The Blue Jays had very little production out of the top of the order in Saturday's defeat. Leadoff man Rajai Davis went 1-for-5 with three strikeouts while Colby Rasmus went hitless in five at-bats in the number two spot.
Shortstop Yunel Escobar could give the home team a boost today considering his past history versus Harrison. Escobar is 5-for-8 with two doubles, a triple, and three RBI in his career versus Harrison. Also, catcher Jeff Mathis is 4- for-5 with a double against the Texas starter.
A victory today would be helpful for the Blue Jays, who have lost four of their last five series dating back to July 30.
Toronto's offense has been bolstered by Edwin Encarnacion. The talented designated hitter went 0-for-2 with a walk in Saturday's loss, but he still leads the team with 123 hits, 31 home runs, 82 RBI, and 61 walks. He will be the third Toronto player to lead the club in each of those four categories ever if he keeps it up. Encarnacion is hitless with two strikeouts in five at- bats against Harrison.
Texas is 5-12 in its last 17 games at Rogers Centre.