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05/23/10 8:46 PM ET

Rangers gearing up for KC road test

The Rangers are about to take a trip to test themselves. Texas has played such good baseball at home this season en route to the best record in the American League's West division, and now the Rangers have to prove they can win on the road. Texas is just 7-11 in road games this season and will play 17 of its next 24 games on the road, a run that starts with Tuesday's series opener in Kansas City.

The Rangers will travel to the Twins and the White Sox after Kansas City, and they'll have two more days off over the next week to compose themselves. After that, Texas will embark on a segment of the schedule that has just three days off in a 41-day span. For those reasons and others, the Rangers will be hard-pressed to play well against the Royals, who they swept in a four-game series earlier in May.

That four-game sweep took place at home, but it was the Rangers' first such sweep of the Royals at any venue since 1990. All four of those games were decided by three runs or less, and two of them came by a one-run margin, playing into a larger trend. The Rangers are 10-8 in one-run games this season, racking up the most games and most wins in the Majors under those circumstances.

Five of the Rangers' last six wins have come by the barest of margins, and they lost by one run in Sunday's series finale against the Cubs. Strangely enough, Texas -- a team traditionally built on power and patience -- has more stolen bases (45) than home runs this season (43). The last time the Rangers managed that feat was in 1990, when they finished with 115 thefts and 110 homers.

The Rangers, who have lost five consecutive road games, will start former Cub Rich Harden in Tuesday's series opener, and he'll be hoping to get a little extra life from a little extra rest. Harden has been knocked out before completing five innings in four of his first nine starts but will be working on an extra day's rest Tuesday. Harden, for his career, is 23-14 with a 3.31 ERA when given an extra day.

The Royals, who have nine of their next 13 games at home, will counter with veteran Gil Meche, who has struggled to return from a season curtailed by shoulder and back ailments. Meche, who also experienced some shoulder tightness in Spring Training, has gone winless in four decisions this season. The right-hander has more walks (32) than strikeouts (25), and the Royals are 2-6 in his starts.

Rangers: Cruz going strong at plate
Nelson Cruz has been one of the league's hottest hitters this season, but he snapped a career-best streak in Sunday's game. The Rangers' right fielder had driven in at least one run in six straight games, the longest streak in the AL this season and tied for the best of his career. Cruz has 14 RBIs in his last 10 games since returning from a two-week stint on the disabled list due to a strained right hamstring.

Amazingly, Cruz ranks second on the team in home runs (nine) and RBIs (33) despite his time spent on the shelf. He can thank that standing to a torrid start that saw him open up the season with four straight multi-hit games and with seven home runs in the first two weeks. Still, Cruz has been hot recently, reaching base safely in 18 of his last 19 games and in 26 of his 29 games played this season.

Royals: Meche showing steady improvement
Meche, who signed a lucrative five-year deal with the Royals before the 2007 season, has been trying to prove that he still can be effective for most of the season. The former first-round draftee gave up at least five earned runs in four of his first five starts, but he's managed a modest rebound since then. Meche has allowed three earned runs or less in three straight outings, and the Royals have won two of them.

Still, there are signs that suggest he's just not as hard to hit as he has been in the recent past. Thirty-six of Meche's 73 strikes were hit for foul balls in his last outing, proving that he wasn't able to fool any of the opposing hitters. If there's a bright side to Meche's season thus far, it's that he's only allowed three home runs in his first eight outings, and only one of them has come in the last month worth of action.

Worth noting
The Royals will use their day off to stage a team golf tournament for charitable purposes. ... Joakim Soria's next save will be No. 100 of his brief but distinguished carer. Soria will likely become the sixth-youngest pitcher to reach that threshhold. ... Third baseman Michael Young has 320 career doubles, matching Juan Gonzalez for third place on the Rangers' all-time chart. Young stands one double behind Rafael Palmeiro and 32 behind Ivan Rodriguez. ... Veteran catcher Jason Kendall caught game No. 1,950 of his career on Sunday, tying former Royal Tony Pena for fifth place on the all-time list. ...Utilityman Willie Bloomquist hit a home run on Sunday, breaking a drought of 169 at-bats.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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