HOUSTON -- The Rangers went into Friday's game expecting Joe Nathan to be ready as their closer even though he had pitched in three straight games. Nathan needed just eight pitches to set down the side in order on Thursday afternoon against the Athletics and threw just 38 pitches over his past three outings."I'm going to go out on a limb and say if there's a closing situation, he'll be in there,' Rangers manager Ron Washington said. Nathan pitched against the Royals on Tuesday and in both games against the Athletics. He pitched a scoreless inning in all three games and it's the first time this season he has pitched on three straight days. "The results were obvious," Washington said. "He was just as good yesterday as he was the second day and just as good the first day. I didn't see any difference. He was very efficient with the way he used his pitches." With a 4-1 lead in the ninth inning on Friday, Nathan retired the side in order on 21 pitches, 13 for strikes, for his ninth save. Washington said postgame that Nathan would be unavailable for Saturday night's contest.
Struggling Young to remain in lineup
HOUSTON -- Michael Young was at first base and Mitch Moreland was on the bench Friday night as the Rangers opened Interleague Play against the Astros. That was expected because the Astros had left-hander Wandy Rodriguez on the mound and Moreland has not been starting against lefties.The Astros are scheduled to go with right-handers Lucas Harrell on Saturday and Jordan Lyles on Sunday. But manager Ron Washington is planning to use Young at first base on Saturday as well. "I'm not taking Michael out of the lineup," Washington said before young went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI in a 4-1 victory. Usually there is no reason to do so. But Young went into Friday's game hitless in his last 11 at-bats and 5-for-41 in his last nine games. He was also hitting .184 in his previous 23 games, as this is growing into one of the most prolonged slumps that he has experienced. That does not deter Washington, even though he acknowledges that Young is struggling at the plate. "He's going to come out of this," Washington said. "He just doesn't look comfortable. It happens. It's like most things when you're talking about somebody with great hand-eye coordination: it could happen today. In Michael's case, I'm not worried about it. Today is the day it could happen." Moreland, on the other hand, hit .385 with four doubles, five home runs and 11 RBIs in his last 18 games. He was the one struggling at the beginning of the season and now he is one of the Rangers' hottest hitters. "I just stuck to my approach and my plan: just get into a good hitting position," Moreland said. "I've been pretty confident. It's the way I've been all year. The results weren't there at the beginning, but you're going to have ups and downs. You keep playing and you keep fighting through it." Right now, Young is the one fighting through it and Washington is going to keep giving him that chance.
Craig Gentry was back in the lineup on Friday after hitting .471 (8-for-17) on the seven-game homestand. He was also hitting .364 in his last 22 games and said, "I'm not trying to go out and impress anybody. I'm doing what I can to help the team win and play hard. Things are going well for me and right now." Gentry finished 1-for-3 with a walk in the win. Josh Hamilton, who was 0-for-2 after entering Thursday's game in the eighth inning, said he wasn't aware that he had a 16-game hitting streak snapped because of his abbreviated appearance. Said Hamilton, "Joe Nathan said something about it to me in the training room." Rangers vice president Jim Sundberg turned 61 on Friday. The Rangers have hit a home run in 12 straight games. Double-A infielder Jurickson Profar tripled in the ninth inning to extend his hitting streak to 28 games on Friday.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.