The Texas Rangers look to continue their winning ways on Friday when they open a three-game series with the visiting Minnesota Twins at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Texas has won seven of nine and is coming off a three-game sweep in Seattle. The Rangers entered the day with a three-game cushion over Oakland in the American League West, which has essentially been a two-team race for much of the season. They are seeking their 20th win in the month of August after beginning the month with a four-game deficit in the division.
"Last year, we were more comfortable," third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "This year, we are more hungry."
The Rangers lineup racked up 17 hits in Wednesday's 12-4 victory to complete the sweep over the Mariners. Martin Perez out-dueled fellow Venezuelan Felix Hernandez for his fifth win in as many starts. Texas got to Hernandez for eight earned runs, marking a career-high for the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner.
It has been a long season in Minnesota, as the Twins sit 20 games off the pace in the AL Central and have dropped five in a row entering Friday's series opener.
On Thursday, the Twins were on the wrong end of a 3-1 decision against Kansas City. The offense managed only five hits against Bruce Chen and a trio of relievers.
Hoping to turn things around in Friday's series opener will be Liam Hendriks, who boasts only one win in 24 career big league starts. He is 0-2 with a 6.20 ERA in four starts for Minnesota this season after being tagged for seven runs in 4 1/3 innings against Cleveland on Saturday.
"It's irritating, but I don't let it affect me," Hendriks said of his win-loss record. "I'm happy to have at least one. Now it's just trying to string a couple together and move on and then move forward and it's further back in my mind. I want a couple more (wins). Outings like (the previous start) aren't going to help."
Meanwhile, Rangers manager Ron Washington will give the ball to Yu Darvish, who leads the majors with 225 strikeouts and ranks fifth with a 2.68 ERA in 25 starts (12-5). He has posted a 1.85 ERA over his last seven starts, holding opposing hitters to a .186 average in that span.
"I know what kind of pitcher I want to be ultimately," Darvish said. "I'm trying to get close to my expectations. I'm not trying to meet other expectations. I know what kind of pitcher I want to be."
The teams have split four meetings this season, although Minnesota has doubled up the Rangers in the runs column, 16-8.