A couple of teams with nearly identical overall records get together at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington as Texas entertains the Baltimore Orioles in the second of a three-game series on Saturday night.
Thanks to a 3-1 win to kick off the second half of the season on Friday, the Orioles are now sporting a 54-43 mark. It was Baltimore's second straight victory and the fifth in the last six outings overall, yet it is still third in the American League East, 4 1/2 games behind Boston.
Baltimore registered single runs on the second, third and fifth innings, with Nate McLouth accounting for two of his team's six hits and knocking in one of those crucial runs. Matt Wieters added his 13th home run of the season to offset a pair of strikeouts.
Chris Davis, who leads the majors with 37 home runs and is second in RBI with 93, struck out three times as his batting average dipped to .311.
Nick Markakis not only drove in a run with a double in the top of the fifth for the Orioles, he also robbed Texas slugger Adrian Beltre of a home run in the fourth with a leaping catch against the wall in right.
"Nicky's substance is so much his style," manager Buck Showalter said. "He's just so consistent. I cannot tell you what an asset it is to have so many players, and Nick as much as any, who you know what you're getting from them every night. Now I've seen this guy play through things that most people don't think about playing through. That's why it was so emotional for all of us to finally get into the playoffs (last year) and he wasn't able to participate."
Wei-Yin Chen picked up the win for the Orioles as he permitted just a single run on eight hits and a couple of walks, striking out three over 6 1/3 innings. Jim Johnson logged his 34th save as well after giving up a hit in the ninth.
Derek Holland was handed the loss after giving up three runs on six hits and two bases-on-balls, fanning six in eight innings.
Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Jeff Baker each tallied two hits, with Baker scoring the lone run for a Texas squad that is now 54-42 overall and two games behind Oakland for first in the AL West after losing two straight and five of the last six outings overall.
Hoping to pick up where he left off before the All-Star Game, Miguel Gonzalez heads back to the mound for the Orioles tonight in the Lone Star State. The right-hander closed out the first half of the campaign with two straight wins and victories in five of his last six outings.
On July 11 Gonzalez held these same Rangers to just one run on four hits and two walks, while fanning four over the course of 6 2/3 innings.
For Gonzalez, who is in just his second major league season, the triumph evened his record versus Texas all-time at 1-1, to go along with a 3.86 ERA.
In the case of the Rangers, they too have a relative unknown heading to the hill for them tonight in Ross Wolf. Taken in the 18th round of the 2002 Draft by the Florida Marlins, Wolf has appeared in a total of just 38 career games between Florida (2007), Oakland (2010) and Texas (2013), and only this year has he even appeared in a starting lineup.
The right-hander went up against Baltimore in his latest two appearances on July 8 and 11, suffering a defeat in the most recent outing as he permitted two runs on two home runs and three hits overall through six innings. Ross walked one and struck out three as he suffered his second loss of the campaign.
While youth is being served on the mound during the game Saturday, Texas will take a moment to reach back into the past as well, celebrating former catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez by inducting him into the Rangers Hall of Fame prior to the game.
Rodriguez, a 14-time All-Star who won 13 Gold Gloves and holds the major league record for most games caught with 2,427, broke into the majors with the Rangers in 1991, initially playing for the club until 2002. Considered one of the top defensive catchers of all-time by throwing out 45.68 percent of would- be base-stealers, Rodriguez went on to play for Florida, Detroit, the Yankees, Houston and Washington, not to mention returning to the Rangers in 2009.
The American League MVP in 1999 when he batted .332 with career highs in hits (199), home runs (35), RBI (113) and stolen bases (25), Rodriguez officially retired on April 23, 2012 when he signed a one-day contract with the Rangers.
With the win on Friday night, Baltimore assumed the lead in the season series by a 3-2 count, somewhat significant given that the O's had won only three times in 13 tries versus Texas in the two previous seasons.