MLB

Rangers, Royals begin second half of season with key series

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The previous two years, Ned Yost spent time and energy managing the American League in the All-Star Game.

This July, the Royals manager spent the All-Star break on a tractor on his Georgia farm.

"I would rather be managing (the All-Star Game)," Yost said.

Yost will return to the dugout Friday when the Royals open a 10-game homestand with the first three games against the Texas Rangers.

"The important thing about the All-Star break is it literally for me feels like a reset button," Yost said. "You battle and you grind and you get to the All-Star break and you have those four days and you can kind of catch your breath.

"You take your mind off of baseball. You rest your body. And then when you get back, you're completely refreshed. It's a wonderful feeling. It just kind of breaks the season up into a half and then you're ready to go again.

"It feels like almost like you're starting the season out of spring training. That's how big the All-Star break is. When you go to the All-Star break as a coach or as a player, you don't get that. You're hustling and bustling."

Catcher Salvador Perez, left-hander Jason Vargas and third baseman Mike Moustakas were Royals All-Star selections and played in the game Tuesday in Miami.

"There is no rest and relaxation. There is none of that," Yost said of the All-Star participants.

The Rangers swept the Royals in a four-game series in April in Arlington. The Royals scored five runs in the series.

While the Rangers are the defending American League West champions, they enter the second half 16 1/2 games in arrears of the Houston Astros. Texas, which is 42-44, still has aspirations of making the postseason as a wild card. They are three games back for the second wild-card spot.

After a horrendous 10-20 record to begin the season, the Royals regrouped and take a 44-43 record into the game Friday. They are three games behind AL Central-leader Cleveland and 1 1/2 games back in the wild-card race. They were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers just before the break.

This is a key series for both teams if they are to be viable postseason contenders.

"It's been an up-and-down season, but we are strong and mentally ready for the second half," shortstop Elvis Andrus told the Rangers official website. "Hopefully we'll have a strong second half. We have done it before."

Texas, which had a 10-game winning streak earlier this season, went 41-31 after the break last year to finish with the best record in the American League.

"We are a work in progress," third baseman Adrian Beltre said on the club's website. "Obviously we had a lot of injuries, and we had to find a way to get through it. We had some good streaks and some bad streaks. Right now, we are trying to find a way to be more consistent. We need to start playing better, help each other more and win more series."

Beltre has a career .344 batting average against Kansas City, his highest against any American League club.

The Rangers will start left-hander Martin Perez in the series opener. Perez is 4-6 with a 4.60 ERA in 16 starts. He has given up 51 runs, 45 earned, on 111 hits, including nine home runs, and 36 walks in 88 innings.

Perez has no-decisions in two career starts against the Royals. He has allowed two earned runs in 12 2/3 innings, allowing 11 hits and walking seven, while striking out eight. He has made one start at Kauffman Stadium, lasting 5 2/3 innings. He had a lot of traffic in that start -- seven hits and four walks -- but yielded only one run.

The Royals' probable starter will be right-hander Jason Hammel, who is 4-8 with a 5.04 ERA in 17 starts. He lost to the Rangers and Yu Darvish 5-2 on April 23.

In seven games, five of them starts, against the Rangers, Hammel is 1-3 with a 4.50 ERA, giving up 34 hits in 31 innings.

Hammel has allowed only one earned run in the first inning this year, but had a 9.60 ERA in the fourth and an 8.36 ERA in the fifth.

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Gallery:
Yu Darvish representing Rangers at 2017 All-Star Game