Blue Jays-Rangers Preview
By KATE HEDLIN
(AP) -- The Texas Rangers have been unusually quiet at the plate lately and might have trouble ending that trend against Toronto's Brandon Morrow, who is coming off his second shutout in four starts.
Josh Hamilton and the Rangers will try to begin breaking out of their offensive slump Friday night when they open a three-game home series against Morrow and the Blue Jays.
Hamilton leads the majors with 18 home runs but has gone a season-high 11 straight games without one, helping contribute to Texas' recent slowdown offensively.
The Rangers dropped two of three to Seattle this week, losing 5-3 on Wednesday. Texas (27-18) scored seven runs and hit .167 in the series, during which they twice didn't have a run until the eighth inning.
Over the last 10 games, the Rangers are hitting .243 while averaging 3.5 runs with a .374 slugging percentage. They lead the majors in all three categories at .284, 5.4 and .463, respectively.
"We're not swinging the bats the way we're capable of right now," Michael Young told the Rangers' official website after going 1 for 12 in the Seattle series. "We've got to stay the course. That's what the big league season is all about. When things don't go your way, you stay with it and play hard. Our confidence is still high as a team and we expect things to go our way."
After going 0 for 4 in the opener, Hamilton went 3 for 8 with two doubles in the final two games. Over the last 12 games, his batting average has dipped 28 points to .379.
Hamilton missed Texas' series against Toronto from April 30-May 2 with a sore back as the Blue Jays won two of three. Mike Napoli went hitless in that series and enters this one in a 2-for-21 slump, plus he's homerless in 23 straight games.
Texas' frustration may not be helped by facing Morrow (5-2, 2.63 ERA), who gave up three hits and struck out eight in a 2-0 win over the New York Mets on Saturday. Morrow has allowed no more than one run in five of his last six starts, including a shutout of the Angels on May 3.
"I'm feeling pretty good," Morrow said. "As long as I'm locating my fastball, I think I'm going to have a good game."
The right-hander didn't face the Rangers three weeks ago but has done well in his last four starts against them, going 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA. Napoli is 2 for 17 against him and Nelson Cruz is 1 for 13. Hamilton is 2 for 9 with no extra-base hits versus Morrow and has hit .171 against Toronto since the start of 2010.
Morrow takes the mound after the Blue Jays (24-21) dropped the final two games of their series against Tampa Bay, including a 5-4 loss in 11 innings Wednesday.
Edwin Encarnacion hit his team-leading 14th homer and Jose Bautista hit his 12th, going deep for the fourth time in eight games. Encarnacion was 4 for 10 with two homers in the first series against Texas while Bautista's only hit was a home run.
Toronto, which has scored 48 runs its last eight games, now looks to hand Derek Holland (3-3, 4.27) a second straight loss.
Holland allowed five runs on three homers in five innings of a 6-5 defeat to Houston on Saturday. It was his first start in nine days after Texas skipped him in the rotation while in the midst of 20 games without a day off.
The left-hander had surrendered only three homers all season and one earned run in his previous 14 1-3 innings.
Holland pitched a shutout in his last start against the Blue Jays - on July 30 - after giving up 15 runs over the previous three.
Updated May 24, 2012