Opposite dugout: Closer crashing, but Rangers still have the horses to make a run

rangers-logo.jpgManager: Jeff Banister (3rd year)

Record: 27-32

Last 10 games: 3-7

Who to watch: SS Elvis Andrus (.302/.345/.466, 15 doubles, 14 stolen bases), RF Nomar Mazara (.288/.352/.462, 38 RBIs), 3B Joey Gallo (.200/.300/.516, 17 home runs), LF Delino DeShields (.289/.352/.352, 10 stolen bases), RHP Matt Bush (2.49 ERA, six saves)

Season series vs. Nationals: First meeting (1-2 in 2014)

Pitching probables:

June 9: RHP Andrew Cashner vs. RHP Tanner Roark, 7:05 p.m., MASN2
June 10: LHP Martín Pérez vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez, 12:05 p.m., MASN
June 11: RHP Nick Martínez vs. RHP Max Scherzer, 4:05 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Rangers:

The Rangers have a nice mix of youth and experience. They can hit for power, and have enough speed to lead the American League in stolen bases. While they're sitting in fourth place in their division, it's not hard to see them making a run at a wild card slot. But even though it's still only June, a division title already looks impossible, because the Astros have the rest of the American League West eating their dust.

Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, now in his eighth year with the club, is on pace to match last year's career season for RBIs and batting average. Andrus is one of those against-the-grain right-handed batters who hit right-handed pitchers better than they do lefties. He won't steal 42 bases, as he did in 2013, but with 14 already, Andrus projects to exceed his steals for each of the subsequent seasons. Left-handed-swinging Nomar Mazara finished fifth in last year's Rookie of the Year voting after hitting 20 homers in the 2016 campaign. Still just 22, Mazara so far shows no signs of a sophomore jinx. He's already matched the 13 doubles he had last season. Four of those have come in interleague play, during which he is hitting .444. In his first full season in the big leagues, 23-year-old third baseman Joey Gallo leads the Rangers in home runs with 17, but is batting a paltry .200. However, when the Rangers have a runner at second, third or both, Gallo's average climbs to .256.. With two outs and runners in scoring position, he hits .263.

Don't dismiss Friday's starting pitcher, Andrew Cashner, because of his 2-5 record. He's pitched to a 3.39 ERA, but gets the lowest average run support - 3.44 per game - of anyone of the Rangers rotation. Cashner pitched for National League clubs from 2010, when he broke into the bigs with the Cubs, until this year, so most Nats hitters will know him. Martín Pérez (2-6, 4.64 ERA, 1.636 WHIP) starts Saturday's game looking to reverse a recent slide. In his last start on June 4, Perez failed to make it through four innings, giving up six runs (five earned) on seven hits to the Astros. He surrendered five runs on nine hits in five innings in his May 29 start against Tampa Bay. Sunday's probable starter, Nick Martínez (1-3, 4.88 ERA), last pitched a week ago in a relief appearance against Houston, throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings while giving up just one hit and striking out two batters.

Texas closer Matt Bush blew a save opportunity against the Indians on opening day, and another at home against the Rays on May 31. In between, he pitched to a 0.53 ERA, an opponent average of .194, six saves and a hold. However, Bush's fortunes have been declining rapidly ever since that run. He gave up three runs on four hits - including two home runs - in a non-save situation against the Mets on June 6. In the series finale the following night, Bush took the loss after the Mets scored a run on two walks and a hit in his one inning of work. Since May 30, Bush's ERA has climbed from 0.96 to 2.49.

Game 60 lineups: Rangers at Nats
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