Texas Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland entered Saturday as hot as he has been in more than a month, riding a three-game hitting streak and coming off a game Friday in which he slugged two solo homers.
His average had reached .220, almost 60 points below his final 2015 average but up from .206 only Wednesday. Moreland wasn’t sure if it was the start of a turnaround or even if he’s confident that good things are ahead.
Manager Jeff Banister, though, said that Moreland has recently been showing signs of a breakthrough, and he has started to put multiple quality at-bats together each game.
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12 Total bases for Mitch Moreland on Thursday (two doubles) and Friday (two homers)
“I don’t know if you’d put it that way, but I’m trying to go up there and have a good approach, get a good pitch and try to put the barrel on it,” Moreland said. “I’m just trying to go up there and just keep it simple.”
That includes not worrying about how his slump might affect his off-season. Moreland can be a free agent after the season, and a sluggish walk year might keep teams from giving him a multi-year contract.
“I’m just trying to take it one game at a time, one at-bat a time and continue to work,” Moreland said. “I think the biggest thing is I want to go out and help us win any way I can. That’s my goal.”
Left-hander Cole Hamels said that he didn’t know it, but he has allowed a home run in six consecutive starts, and the 14 long balls he has allowed this season are tied for third-most in the American League.
He gets the Mariners on Sunday in his 13th start of the season. Seattle entered Saturday with 92 homers, second most in Major League Baseball.
14 Home runs allowed this season by Cole Hamels, third most in the American League
“When they hit homers, it’s making a mistake,” Hamels said. “You’ve got to minimize the mistakes and hope that maybe they’ll hit a few off the wall instead of over it. For how I play, I approach every game trying to execute pitches. Good things that happen in previous games and disappointing things that happen in previous games I tend to forget.”
Hamels hasn’t won his past three starts, two of which were no-decisions. The Rangers have lost three of his past four starts after winning 16 of the previous 17.
With two strikeouts Sunday, Hamels will become the 77th pitcher in history to reach 2,000.
The First-Year Player Draft wrapped up Saturday with the Rangers making their final 30 selections, including the lone Texan they picked in 40 rounds.
The Rangers took Marcus Mack, an outfielder from Houston Bellaire High School, in the 18th round. Mack has committed to Houston.
Overall, the Rangers selected 23 pitchers (five left-handers), seven outfielders, six infielders and four catchers. Twenty-eight of the players came from colleges, and 11 were prep players.
▪ Shin-Soo Choo (strained left hamstring) is likely to be activated from the 15-day disabled list Monday at Oakland as long as he had no issues after playing nine innings Saturday with Double A Frisco. “We’ll take him as soon as we can get him,” Banister said. “He’s one of our guys.”
▪ Third baseman Adrian Beltre (strained left hamstring) jogged and took early batting practice Saturday, but he remains unlikely to play until Monday at the earliest.
▪ The Rangers acquired right-hander Justin De Frautus from Seattle as the player to be named in the May trade for outfielder Patrick Kivlehan. De Frautus, who has big-league experience with Philadelphia but was pitching at Triple A Tacoma, did not get a 40-man roster spot and was assigned to Triple A Round Rock.
▪ Hamels, Yu Darvish and Martin Perez were among six pitchers who took batting practice this season ahead of the interleague series next weekend at St. Louis. They are scheduled to start at Busch Stadium.