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08/20/10 7:41 PM ET

First-place Rangers look to solve pesky O's

One win at a time, one step closer to clinching the American League West. The Rangers will find themselves with their eyes on the small picture Saturday, when they continue their series against the surprisingly plucky Baltimore Orioles. Texas has dropped five of six to Baltimore this season, putting more pressure on for the rest of the weekend.

Texas had lost six straight road games before taking a 2-0 win Friday, and it came one defeat away from equaling its longest road skid since 2008.

But that's not to say the Rangers are out of the woods just yet. Texas has gone 13-22 against AL East teams this season -- the second-worst winning percentage against that division. Baltimore is the only team with a worse mark, and the Rangers are 4-6 thus far in a stretch of 12 straight games against East teams.

The Orioles, meanwhile, find themselves in the midst of an unlikely renaissance. Baltimore has gone 11-8 in August and is on pace for its first winning month since June '08. That's notable for one reason: The Orioles have had just 11 winning months over the past decade, setting the bar relatively low for improvement.

Manager Buck Showalter, who was ejected for the first time as an Oriole in Friday night's game, finds himself trying to gauge the existing talent on his club. Showalter, when asked about lingering injuries for reliever Koji Uehara and other players Friday, remarked that reality doesn't always match up with the way things seem at first glance.

"I think you really depend on your doctors [and] your trainers with what kind of injuries they've had, and try not to pigeonhole guys and just brand them," he said. "I heard that expression years back, 'He's a bad tissue guy.' I don't know. What does that mean? You've got to be careful there, try to take the positive part of it."

The Rangers went into the All-Star break on the heels of a four-game series sweep at the hands of the Orioles, and they've managed just a 18-14 record since the intermission. Texas hasn't lost much ground in the standings and will hand the ball to staff ace Cliff Lee -- one of the most consistent pitchers in the league -- on Saturday.

Lee, 2-3 with a 3.44 ERA since joining Texas in a midseason trade, has started his season with 21 starts in which he's completed at least six innings and walked two batters or fewer. That's the longest AL streak to start the season since 1920, and it's tied for the second-longest stretch over the past 90 years.

The Orioles, meanwhile, will counter with Brad Bergesen, whose season statistics have been skewed by a double-digit ERA in both April (12.19) and June (11.17). The second-year starter has gone 1-0 with a 2.11 ERA in his past three outings, though, and for the season, he's 2-4 with a 5.84 ERA at Camden Yards.

Rangers: Hamilton responds after small slump
It was an uneventful night at the office for AL Most Valuable Player Award candidate Josh Hamilton on Friday, and yet it was exactly what the left fielder needed. Hamilton, who had gone 0-for-11 in his previous three games -- just the third time this season he'd gone hitless in three straight games -- went 2-for-5 in Friday's victory.

And with that, Hamilton put his astounding season back on track. Hamilton, the first overall pick in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft, has batted .405 (109-for-269) in his past 68 games, raising his season average more than 60 points (from .281 to .354). Hamilton singled in one of his team's two runs on Friday.

Orioles: Rotation keeps rolling
Baltimore went into Friday's games with its starting rotation on a roll, having completed at least eight innings in three straight games for just the second time this decade. The Orioles hadn't done that since 2005, and they haven't managed four straight starts of that caliber since July 1999.

Jake Arrieta fell short Friday, but he still pitched well. Baltimore's hottest player -- designated hitter Luke Scott -- didn't start and went 0-for-1 as a pinch-hitter. Scott, the first Orioles hitter with 20 homers in three straight seasons since Miguel Tejada (2004-06), is batting .330 (86-for-261) over his past 73 games.

Worth noting
Prior to Friday's win, the Rangers were the only big league team that didn't have a save in August. Texas had gone 16 games without a save -- the team's longest streak since '02. ... The Rangers had also fallen to 14 games over .500, where they hadn't been since July 18. ... Curt Schilling matched Lee's streak of 21 straight starts in the '02 season, and Juan Marichal set the record with 23 straight in 1968. ... Nick Markakis, who was ejected Friday night, is one double shy of four straight 40-double seasons. Markakis is 18 doubles away from lodging himself in the team's top 10. ... The Orioles have 58 quality starts, equaling last year's total.

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


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