Solid pitching combined with some productive at-bats have the Cleveland Indians enjoying a successful home stretch.
Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers are in position to earn their first road-series win in almost two months.
The teams conclude their three-game set with the decisive contest Thursday night in Cleveland.
The Indians have outscored their opponents 27-11 while winning four of the first five during a stretch of nine official games at home — including last weekend’s MLB Little League Classic against the Los Angeles Angels in Williamsport, Pa.
After falling 7-3 to Texas in the Tuesday series opener, the Indians got solo homers from Oscar Mercado, Yu Chang, Austin Hedges and Franmil Reyes to bounce back for a 7-2 victory on Wednesday.
Chang has gone 2-for-4 with a homer in each of the first two games of this set. Mercado is 5-for-14 (.357) in his past four contests.
“I’m going to keep asking them to do things that their skill sets say they should do and keep working on it,” acting Indians manager DeMarlo Hale said about a team that is finishing the season with a mix established and younger players looking to prove their worth.
Even though the Indians are batting .301 with 11 home runs in the past five games, they could be in for a tough task Thursday against scheduled Texas starter Jordan Lyles (6-10, 5.33 ERA).
The right-hander allowed 17 runs and 27 hits over 17 innings while losing his first three starts of August. However, on Saturday, he yielded one run on five hits and struck out six over seven innings of a 10-1 victory at Boston.
Lyles broke into the majors in 2011, but he will face the Indians for the first time on Thursday. However, Reyes, Hedges and Myles Straw have each homered in a combined 12 at-bats against Lyles.
The Rangers are 7-40 on the road since winning three straight away from home May 4-6. However, they find themselves with a chance to win their first road series since taking two of three at Oakland from June 29-July 1. That’s somewhat more impressive considering Texas has seven players sidelined due to COVID-19-related issues.
“We are continuing to take extreme precaution in terms of health and safety protocols,” general manager Chris Young said. “We are doing our best to prevent further spread.”
One healthy Ranger is Nathaniel Lowe, who is 9-for-17 (.529) over his last four games. He was batting just .247 prior to his current run.
“I’m proud of Nate,” manager Chris Woodward said. “Nathaniel has worked really hard to clean up some things, make some changes.”
The Rangers have never faced scheduled Indians starter Sam Hentges (1-4, 7.52 ERA).
The rookie left-hander, who began his major league career this season as a reliever, is 0-4 with an 8.27 ERA in 11 starts this season. This will be his fourth consecutive start, and it comes after a solid (albeit brief) outing on Friday against the Los Angeles Angels, when he allowed a run and three hits over four innings.
Cleveland starting pitchers have a 2.57 ERA over the past five games.
–Field Level Media