Texas not in Cruz control

There are just 17 days remaining in baseball’s regular season, and four of the six division titles seem to be secure. The AL West, with the Texas Rangers holding a 2 ½-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels, is one division race that is up for grabs.

The Rangers expanded their lead to a season-high seven games when they took the first three games of a four-game series against the Angels from Aug. 15-17. Since then, however, the Rangers are 10-12.

The Rangers have had trouble with their pitching during those 22 games, evidenced by a 5.08 ERA during that span.

The Rangers, with an off day Monday, could get a big bat back in the lineup Tuesday when they begin a three-game home set against the Cleveland Indians.

Nelson Cruz and his 28 homers, 84 runs batted in and .531 slugging percentage will be removed from the 15-day disabled list and could take his normal spot in the middle of the Texas lineup.

Cruz suffered a strained hamstring and was placed on the DL on Aug. 30. The Rangers have gone 6-5 in the 11 games without Cruz, but their offense has seemingly not missed a beat.

Ron Washington’s troops have amassed 80 runs in those 11 games without Cruz, including scoring double-digit runs on three occasions.

Nevertheless, with just 15 games remaining in the regular campaign and the Angels breathing down their back, the Rangers will be glad to add Cruz to their lineup.

Matt Harrison, who is coming off one of his best pitching performances of the season, will get the ball for Texas in Tuesday’s opener.

The 6-foot-4, 240-pound southpaw held the Red Sox to two runs on seven hits through seven innings during an 11-4 Texas victory as a $1.15 road underdog. Harrison walked two and fanned five during his 111-pitch effort.

The win raised Harrison’s record to 11-9 and lowered his ERA to 3.50. Harrison is 6-5 with a 3.65 ERA in 14 home starts, compared to 5-4 with a 3.35 ERA on the road. The ‘under’ is 10-4 at home.

Harrison has not started against the Indians this season.

Cleveland, playing the fifth game of a 10-game road trip, has fallen out of the AL Central race thanks to dropping seven of its last 11 outings.

The Tribe will send Justin Masterson (11-9, 3.01) to the mound in Tuesday’s opener. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound right-hander has allowed four runs or more in three of his last four starts, including his most recent effort last Wednesday against the Tigers.

Masterson was tagged for five runs on eight hits through six innings of an 8-6 loss. The 26-year-old fanned six and walked three during a 114-pitch performance.

Masterson has faced the Rangers once this season (June 3) and it wasn’t pretty. Texas touched the right-hander for four runs on 10 hits through 6 1/3 innings en route to an 11-2 victory as a $1.00 road underdog. Masterson walked one and fanned seven during a 104-pitch performance.

Cleveland is 7-6 in Masterson’s 13 road starts, with the big right-hander going 7-4 with a 2.83 ERA during that span. The ‘under’ is 8-5 in his 13 road assignments.

Texas is a sparkling 46-29 at home and an equally impressive 61-43 against right-handed starters However, the Rangers are just 16-23 in one-run games and 4-5 in extra inning affairs. The Rangers have outscored their opponents by 133 runs (765-632).

The Indians are 33-39 on the road, 21-22 versus southpaw starters, 25-24 in one-run games and 6-7 in extra innings. Despite a .500 record, Cleveland is getting outscored by 34 runs (642-608).

Texas is 19-7 in the last 26 meetings against Cleveland, with the ‘over’ going 15-4-2 in the last 21 matchups.

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