Tiger tamer

Texas (61-49) at Detroit (58-51), 1:05 p.m. EDT

Alexi Ogando has put together a pair of dominant performances to beat the Detroit Tigers twice this season. The Texas Rangers now need him to end his recent struggles to help them avoid a rare sweep.

Ogando takes the mound Thursday afternoon when the Rangers and Tigers wrap up their season series in Detroit.

With a 5-4 loss Wednesday, Texas (61-50) has dropped three straight and is 1-4 heading into the finale of its road trip.

“We’ve just got to battle and get back on track – there’s nothing else to say,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “We understand that we’re a good team, and we’re going to work our way out of this.”

Another sharp outing from Ogando (10-5, 2.88 ERA) against the Tigers would make that task somewhat easier. No pitcher has beaten the AL Central leaders three times this year, but the All-Star is in position to become the first.

The right-hander gave up two hits over seven innings in a 2-0 win April 11 at Comerica Park. Ogando then allowed a run through 7 2-3 to lift the Rangers to a 7-3 home victory on June 8.

Brennan Boesch, Alex Avila, Jhonny Peralta, Austin Jackson and Magglio Ordonez have combined to go 0 for 23 against Ogando this season. Slugger Miguel Cabrera, though, has gone 4 for 6.

Ogando comes in trying to avoid a season high-tying third straight loss. After giving up three runs to the Blue Jays in a shutout defeat on June 24, Ogando served up a three-run homer to J.P. Arencibia and finished with a career-worst four walks over 5 2-3 innings in Saturday’s 3-2 defeat in Toronto.

Ogando was reached for 15 runs while losing three straight starts from June 14-25. He’s also dropped three of his last four road starts.

Brad Penny (7-8, 4.89) will make his first start for Detroit since getting into a heated argument with batterymate Victor Martinez during a short outing last Thursday.

The incident came while Penny allowed four runs in the fourth inning of a 12-7 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Penny was lifted after surrendering seven runs and nine hits in 3 1-3 innings.

Afterward, the right-hander wouldn’t say much about it other than calling it a discussion about how Martinez was calling signs with a runner on second. The catcher refused comment.

Penny failed to get a decision in the Tigers’ 5-4 walkoff win over the Rangers on April 12.

The Tigers (59-51) are going for their first sweep of the Rangers since May 19-21, 2009, at Comerica.

Following Detroit’s 6-5 win in Tuesday’s opener, Doug Fister snapped a 10-start losing streak in his Tigers debut by limiting Texas to three runs in seven innings Thursday. Combined with Cleveland’s loss later that night, Detroit increased its lead over the Indians to four games.

“It’s very exciting to be in a pennant race,” said Fister, acquired Saturday from Seattle. “We’re right in the middle of things.”

Ryan Raburn had three hits, including a homer, and Avila went deep for the second straight game for Tigers.

Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton each had two hits and Mike Napoli hit a solo homer in the ninth for the Rangers, who have been swept once this season, June 14-16 at Yankee Stadium.

With a 6-2 record, Detroit has already been assured of winning the season series from Texas for the fourth time in five years.

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