ARLINGTON, Texas -- Two players having career years look to continue to produce in near anonymity Saturday night when the Texas Rangers host Oakland in the second contest of the three-game series.
Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus recovered from a disastrous playoff game against Toronto last year to have the best season of his career. Oakland third baseman Ryon Healy got a late start to his rookie season, but is one of the best rookies in the second half of the season.
Both will have their work cut out for them Saturday as Andrus faces a rookie pitcher he's never seen before in right-hander Raul Alcantara (0-1) while Healy and the Athletics try to solve right-hander Yu Darvish (5-4).
Andrus had two key errors in Game 5 of the American League Division Series against Toronto last year, but rebounded with his best season average-wise (.295) and is four RBI shy of his career high of 67. He's also been one of the best clutch hitters in baseball as he's hitting .444 with runners in scoring position since June 24.
"I'm trying to do the same thing I do every single day, same routine, same mentality," Andrus said. "Don't try to do too much. This year it's actually paying off the way I want it to. I don't think I'll be changing any time soon."
That approach certainly won't change as the Rangers close in on their defense of the American League West title. Friday's 7-6 victory over Oakland knocked the Texas magic number down to seven. Andrus, who had an RBI single Friday, doesn't expect the Rangers to change their approach if and when they clinch the division.
"Having a lot of fun every single day, I think that's a big key for us," Andrus said. "Knowing we're close to making it to the postseason but at the same time there's still a lot of baseball ahead. Trying to stay focused every single day and just continue to win series, that's our approach."
Having to face Healy and the A's five more times this season will make that difficult. Healy, who went 2-for-4 on Friday to extend his hitting streak to seven games, has hit 10 home runs since the All-Star break. That's the third-most among AL rookies in that span. He's also batting .382 over the last 30 games.
The influx of energy Healy and fellow rookie Joey Wendle (.319 average) have added to the offense have been tangible.
"I think these guys rub off on them," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "We're down and things aren't going well and all of the sudden an injection of energy and it rubs off on you. I think they enjoy having these guys around. It looks like the energy level is better. It looks like the effort level seems to be better across the board."