Orioles, Rangers resume wild-card chase

ARLINGTON, Texas -- When the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles wrapped up their four-game series a week ago in Baltimore, the teams were heading in opposite directions in the American League wild-card chase.

On Friday night, the teams will open a three-game set at Globe Life Park, heading in the same direction and with the same questions as the trade deadline looms: Are they buyers or sellers?

The Rangers, who will send right-hander Andrew Cashner (5-8, 3.64 ERA) to the mound, were swept in Baltimore and have lost two of their last three games and six of 10.

The Orioles, who will counter with righty Chris Tillman (1-5, 7.01), have lost four of six since sweeping Texas.

Both teams are desperate heading into the series, with the Rangers 4 1/2 games behind in the wild-card picture and the Orioles 5 1/2 back.

Texas is still trying to shake off the effects of a 22-10 loss to Miami on Wednesday night.

"It's a tough group of men in that locker room," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "They'll show up Friday; they'll compete. There's a lot of fight left in that room; there's a lot of fight left in every one of them. They understand what's in front of them. It's a great group of competitive baseball players. That's what they are: baseball players who love to play this game. There is some DNA in there that will allow them to continue. We're going to fight all the way to the end. We'll figure out how to get this thing going in the right direction."

Cashner could help the cause. He has pitched well in July. In a 3-1 loss to Baltimore on July 17, Cashner allowed three runs in 6 2/3 innings. In two career starts against Baltimore, he is 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA.

Like Cashner, Tillman has been solid recently. Despite rocky overall numbers, he hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in his last three starts.

His best start of the year was in the game the Orioles beat Cashner. While Tillman didn't get the win, he allowed one run and two hits in six innings. He is 3-2 with a 4.89 ERA in his career against the Rangers. All three of those victories have come in Arlington despite Tillman owning a 5.08 ERA at Globe Life.

Baltimore manager Buck Showalter echoed Banister's sentiments about the stretch before the trade deadline.

"They're all important, regardless of what some false deadline some people perceive it as," Showalter told the Baltimore Sun. "No, they're all important because we're trying to get into the playoffs and be the last man standing. So, to say some are more important than others is a really poor reflection on you as a competitor."

Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre, who could make history Friday if he gets four hits and reaches 3,000, realizes the importance of this series, too.

"We still have a good team. We believe in our team and try to figure out how to get better," Beltre said. "There is no time to panic right now. I don't think the front office should throw the towel yet."