(AP) — Atop their respective divisions, the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees both appear headed to the playoffs.
The Rangers have maintained their lofty position despite struggling mightily against the Yankees’ division.
Texas begins a difficult stretch against AL East opponents Tuesday night in the opener of a two-game series with New York.
The Rangers (64-47) lost to Oakland 3-2 on Sunday to finish a 4-5 road trip against AL West foes. They still have a .621 winning percentage within their division – the second-best in the AL – and own the largest division lead.
Texas’ comfortable lead could be in trouble, though, with its next 12 games against the AL East.
The Rangers, who open a series against Boston on Friday before visiting Tampa Bay and Baltimore next week, are 9-16 against the East. They were swept at home in a four-game series to the lowly Orioles last month.
Texas was outscored 17-6 in three straight losses at Yankee Stadium in April, and has lost 14 of the last 17 meetings at Rangers Ballpark.
“I’m sure quite a few people might think this (Yankees) series is making some kind of statement for us,” manager Ron Washington told the Rangers’ official website. “Our plan is to just stay with what we are, right here. If we play our game, it doesn’t matter if it’s the Yankees, or who it is.”
Josh Hamilton, the major league leader with a .355 batting average, is in the middle of Texas’ struggles against New York (69-42). The slugger is 1 for 11 against the Yankees this year, and hitless in eight at-bats against scheduled starter A.J. Burnett since 2009.
Burnett (9-9, 4.93 ERA) is pitching on seven days’ rest after being scratched Sunday because of a bad back.
“Unless something happens overnight or before he gets to the park, he’s going to start,” manager Joe Girardi said.
Burnett is trying to bounce back after being tagged for eight runs and eight hits – six for extra bases in the fifth inning – in 4 2-3 innings of an 8-6 loss to Toronto last Monday. The right-hander had thrown 11 1-3 scoreless innings in winning his previous two starts.
Burnett was sharp in his only start of the season against the Rangers on April 17, allowing six hits while striking out seven in seven shutout innings of a 7-3 victory. He is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in four starts versus Texas with the Yankees.
Rangers scheduled starter C.J. Wilson (10-5, 3.30) is also hoping to rebound from a shaky outing.
In Seattle on Wednesday, Wilson gave up four runs, six hits and four walks and was lifted after a season-low three innings. Texas rallied for an 11-6 victory, though, moving to 10-2 in Wilson’s outings since the start of June.
Wilson made his first start against the Yankees on April 16, allowing five runs and seven hits in six innings of a 5-1 loss. He has done a stellar job of shutting down Alex Rodriguez in his career, holding him hitless in 10 at-bats.
Rodriguez is 3 for 6 with a solo homer and four walks against the Rangers this season, and is batting .390 with eight RBIs in his last 12 games against his former team.
Mark Teixeira, another former Ranger, has three home runs and 14 RBIs in 11 games against the Rangers since signing with the Yankees. The slugger, who has six homers and 13 RBIs in his last nine games, hit his 26th home run in Monday’s 2-1 loss to Boston, but also struck out to end the game with the tying run on second.
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