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Preview: Orioles at Rangers

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

After splitting a four-game series earlier this month, the Baltimore Orioles look to gain the upper hand against the host Texas Rangers when they open a three-game set on Friday. Chris Davis polished off an impressive first half of the season by going deep in each of his last four contests to raise his major league-leading total to 37 home runs. The blister that hampered Davis' performance in the Home Run Derby isn't expected to cause any additional problems.

While Baltimore resides 4 1/2 games in back of Boston in the American League East, Texas dropped four of its last five contests to fall two games behind AL West-leading Oakland. Injuries have played a significant role in the Rangers' struggles, but manager Ron Washington is encouraged by his team's performance. "We took some punches but kept getting up. I could not be prouder of this group," he said. "Now we just need to get healthy. This break couldn't come at a better time for us."

TV: 8:05 p.m. ET, MASN2 (Baltimore), KTXA (Texas)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Orioles LH Wei-Yin Chen (4-3, 2.82 ERA) vs. Rangers LH Derek Holland (8-4, 3.08)

Chen finished the first half of the season in impressive fashion, winning his last two starts and four of five decisions. The Taiwan native has dominated the competition in his last six outings, permitting just nine runs and 30 hits. Chen's last trip to the mound on July 10 was particularly impressive, as he scattered three hits over seven innings in a 6-1 triumph over Texas.

Holland enters Friday's contest having won his last three decisions - although his performance versus Baltimore on July 8 left a bit to be desired. The 26-year-old allowed five runs on 10 hits over 6 2/3 innings in the Rangers' 8-5 victory. Holland, who improved to 4-1 lifetime against the Orioles, has struck out 31 batters in his last four trips to the mound.

WALK-OFFS

1. Texas OF Nelson Cruz hit safely in all four games versus Baltimore last week but is just 1-for-6 against Chen.

2. Baltimore 3B Manny Machado registered a pair of three-hit performances during last week's series. He is 3-for-7 versus Holland.

3. After going 1-for-13 against the Rangers, Davis rebounded with five hits and six runs scored as the Orioles claimed two of three from Toronto.

PREDICTION: Rangers 4, Orioles 1

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130719/preview-orioles-at-rangers