Rangers-Twins Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 12, 2012
Since opening two years ago, Target Field has been a house of misery for the Texas Rangers. While they appear to have the right man taking the mound to pick up a rare win there, their offense may be the bigger concern in Minnesota. Scheduled starter Matt Harrison tries to lead the Rangers to their second victory at Target Field in Friday night's series opener against the Twins, who are finally starting to hit. Despite winning a second straight AL pennant last season, Texas (5-2) went 3-5 against a Twins club that finished with the league's worst record. The Rangers are also 1-9 at Minnesota's new ballpark, having been outscored 60-34 there. Texas has struggled mightily in those games despite allowing little offensive production from Twins sluggers Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. They each have missed several recent home meetings with the Rangers and are a combined 5 for 29 (.172) with four RBIs in the series at Target Field. Texas, though, only has three homers in 343 at-bats there, an average of one every 114.3 at-bats. The Rangers had a homer every 35.9 at-bats in their other road games over the past two seasons. Harrison was solid against the Twins last year, posting a 1.35 ERA in a pair of starts, but he lost June 12 in Minnesota after allowing two runs - one earned - in six-plus innings of a 6-1 defeat. In his season debut against the Chicago White Sox on Sunday, Harrison gave up four hits and two walks in six innings of a 5-0 win. The left-hander picked up where he left off in 2011, improving to 5-0 with a 2.21 ERA over his last six regular-season starts. Now Harrison hopes to continue his strong road pitching. His 2.99 ERA in 15 starts away from Rangers Ballpark last year was the sixth-best road mark in the AL. The Rangers arrive in Minnesota after taking two of three from Chicago and three of four from Seattle at home. In Thursday's 5-3 win over the Mariners, the top two in Texas' batting order - Ian Kinsler and Michael Young - combined to go 6 for 8 with five RBIs and four runs. "Everything started to click offensively," Young said. The same can be said about Minnesota (2-4). After plating six total runs while batting .165 in losing their first four games, the Twins combined for 16 runs and 29 hits in winning their last two. Against the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday, they rallied from an early 6-0 hole and a one-run deficit in the eighth inning for a 10-9 victory. Morneau hit a two-run, go-ahead homer in the eighth, while Mauer finished with three hits - including a three-run homer in the fifth. The homers were each the first of the year for two players hoping their problems with injuries are in the past. "We know we can do it," Mauer said. "Maybe everybody else doesn't." Anthony Swarzak, originally slated to be Minnesota's long reliever, is set to make his second start of the season. The right-hander got the call Sunday in Baltimore after scheduled starter Liam Hendriks was scratched due to food poisoning. Swarzak filled in admirably, allowing a run and four hits in five innings of a 3-1 defeat. This will be his first start against the Rangers since Aug. 20, 2009, when he allowed six runs and eight hits - including a career-worst four homers - in 5 1-3 innings of an 11-1 road loss.
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