The Texas Rangers are climbing back into contention for an American League wild-card spot with the help of strong pitching, and right-hander Yu Darvish attempts to complete an impressive three-game sweep of the host Kansas City Royals on Sunday. The Rangers have won five of their last six games after Saturday’s 1-0 triumph and allowed 10 runs combined during that stretch to reach .500 at 45-45.
Cole Hamels tossed 7 2/3 innings of scoreless ball and the bullpen held up as Shin-Soo Choo delivered an RBI single in the ninth inning Saturday after Texas rallied from an early 3-0 deficit to win the series opener. Darvish, who made the All-Star team but did not pitch in the exhibition on Tuesday, will go for his first win in more than a month when he opposes Kansas City right-hander Ian Kennedy on Sunday. The Royals have dropped five in a row following a 6-1 run and managed just four hits in Saturday’s loss after going scoreless the final four innings of the setback on Friday. Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer went 0-for-4 on Saturday to end a 16-game hitting streak, but Whit Merrifield had a double to improve to 3-for-8 in the series.
TV: 2:15 p.m. ET, FSN Southwest (Texas), FSN Kansas City
PITCHING MATCHUP: Rangers RH Yu Darvish (6-8, 3.49 ERA) vs. Royals RH Ian Kennedy (3-6, 4.45)
Darvish has dropped four straight decisions but allowed two earned runs in two of the setbacks, including last Sunday in a 3-0 defeat against the Los Angeles Angels. The four-time All-Star walked four in that contest after issuing two free passes combined in his previous four outings. Brandon Moss boasts four homers in 26 at-bats versus Darvish, who permitted two runs over eight innings with eight strikeouts to beat the Royals on April 23.
Kennedy is unbeaten in his last six starts with a 3.22 ERA, going at least six innings in five of those outings. The 32-year-old UCLA product, who is 0-4 with a 4.71 ERA in seven starts at home in 2017, has struggled with the long ball, as opponents have swatted 17 homers against him in his 16 turns, encompassing 87 innings. Carlos Gomez is 6-for-16 versus Kennedy, who gave up one run and four hits over seven innings in a no-decision at Texas on April 22.
1. Kansas City RF Jorge Bonifacio has hit safely in six consecutive games, going 8-for-25 during that stretch.
2. Texas 3B Adrian Beltre went 0-for-4 in Saturday’s contest, but is batting .343 in 87 career games against the Royals.
3. Kansas City RHP Nate Karns will have thoracic outlet surgery and miss the rest of the 2017 season.
PREDICTION: Rangers 5, Royals 2