05/26/10 7:17 PM ET
Rangers can disrupt Twins' home comfort
By Bailey Stephens / MLB.com
The two first-place teams will lock horns, as both attempt to gain some distance on their followers.
Texas, on top in the American League West, is likely hoping for a better first outing at Target Field than it has had in past stadium debuts. Since a win in their first game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh in 2002, the Rangers have lost six of seven in such situations.
Hoping to reverse their luck at new parks, the Rangers will turn to Colby Lewis in the opener. In his last start, Lewis tossed a strong game, going six innings while allowing just one run and striking out four. He's been erratic at times over his past few starts and could benefit from some early run support if the Rangers' bats are offering.
The Rangers' offense has been funneling through Vladimir Guerrero, whose 42 RBIs rank among the league leaders. Guerrero went 3-for-5, including two homers and five RBIs, in Tuesday's 8-7 win over the Royals. He went 0-for-4 in Wednesday's series finale.
It'll take a big effort from Twins starter Kevin Slowey to slow down Guerrero. While he's been solid, Slowey has struggled at pitching late into ballgames this season, as he's lasted through the seventh inning only once this year. In his last outing, Slowey was in line for the win, having allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings, but he didn't get his usual offensive support. In the end, the Twins came out on top, though, and Slowey didn't mind missing the "W" at all.
"I feel like all of us believed we were going to come back and win somehow, and our hitters came through," said Slowey.
Rangers: Smoak, Borbon still taking cuts
Despite the fact that Justin Smoak and Julio Borbon have both been struggling of late, the Rangers' brass came out to support the pair, saying that at least for now, they'd be allowed to work through their struggles at the Major League level. Smoak, a first baseman, went 1-for-3 on Wednesday but is hitting only .173 on the season. "It's an offensive position, and obviously we haven't been particularly productive at that spot," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "This is Justin's first go-round. I've been generally encouraged by the quality of his at-bats. We'll execute patience the same way we have other guys in the past. He's capable of producing in that spot." Borbon, whose slide is not as drastic, went 0-for-3 on Wednesday.
Twins: Punto expected back
Third baseman Nick Punto is expected to be back in the lineup for Friday's game against the Rangers after straining his left ring finger. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that Punto, who had a cortisone shot in the middle knuckle of the finger on Sunday, felt better on Thursday after on-field drills and hitting in the cage. ... Outfielder Denard Span, who stole 23 bases in 2009, already has 13 steals through 47 games in 2010, including four in his past four games. Span has been caught only once this season.
The Twins have gone 6-3 in games started by Slowey this season. ... Michael Young matched Ruben Sierra for the most career triples in Rangers history with his 44th on Wednesday.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.