(AP) — The New York Yankees and Texas Rangers have a good chance of facing each other in October.
It only seemed like the opener of this series lasted into next month.
Following a 13-inning epic that ended in the wee hours of the morning, the division leaders will each send a struggling starter to the mound Saturday night in Arlington as they resume their three-game set.
If the regular season ended now, the AL East-leading Yankees (87-54) and the West-leading Rangers (78-63) would square off in a division series matchup. If that series were to approach the drama of Friday night’s contest, few would complain.
New York and Texas played a 5 hour, 12 minute marathon that finally ended in the bottom of the 13th inning, when Nelson Cruz’s second homer of the game gave the Rangers a 6-5 victory – their third straight following a five-game skid.
“We stood up there (Friday), went toe-to-toe with those guys and got the win,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “It was important for those guys in that clubhouse to know we’re capable, especially after we were down 4-1.”
The teams combined to use an AL-record 19 pitchers Friday, so their respective bullpens could use a rest. However, it may be tough to rely on either of Saturday’s starters – New York’s A.J. Burnett or Texas’ Tommy Hunter – to last into the late innings.
Since the beginning of June, Burnett (10-13, 5.15 ERA) is 4-11 with a major league-worst 6.58 ERA and a .302 opponent batting average in 17 starts. Meanwhile, Hunter (12-3, 3.99) surrendered seven runs in Monday’s 7-2 loss at Toronto.
Burnett snapped a personal four-game losing streak with a win over Oakland on Sept. 1, but regressed again Monday, allowing four runs, seven hits and four walks in seven innings of a 4-3 home defeat to AL-worst Baltimore.
The right-hander is 4-3 with a 3.61 ERA against Texas, including a 1-0 mark and three runs allowed over 14 innings in two meetings this season.
He’ll attempt to serve as a stopper for the Yankees, whose loss Friday was their fourth in five games. New York stranded 18 baserunners as its division lead shrunk to 1 1/2 games over Tampa Bay.
“We left a lot of guys on base,” Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. “Good teams find a way to get those runs in.”
Hunter gave up three homers in his loss Monday, ending a personal three-start winning streak. The right-hander lost his only previous outing against the Yankees, but that contest was on Aug. 6, 2008 – when the then-rookie allowed five runs in 4 1-3 innings.
New York center fielder Curtis Granderson is 3 for 4 with a homer off Hunter, but is 0 for 12 over his last five games overall.
Texas has won three in a row despite the absence of major league batting leader Josh Hamilton, who has missed the last six games while suffering from a bruised right ribcage. His status remains day-to-day.
“It depends on how he tells us he feels,” Washington said. “We certainly don’t want to hurt him. We can only go by what he tells us, and he tells us he can’t do it right now.”