(SportsNetwork.com) - The Texas Rangers have not fared well of late at Globe Life Park in Arlington, and they will try to change that Friday night when they host the Toronto Blue Jays in the opener of a three-game set.
After winning nine of their first 12 home games this season, the Rangers have lost seven of their last nine in Arlington. Going back to 2009, Texas has been among the best home teams in the majors in terms of offensive production and, of course, wins. However, the team's .380 slugging percentage at home currently ranks 12th in the American League.
"It's important because we've always played well at home," manager Ron Washington said. "It's important that we play well all the time, but at home, definitely."
Things did not go so well on the road this week, either.
The Rangers lost two of three at Houston as they were shut out on Tuesday, 8-0, then lost Wednesday's series finale, 5-4. Reliever Nick Martinez gave up a walk-off single to Houston's Matt Dominguez in the bottom of the ninth inning on Wednesday as the Rangers lost their first series to the Astros since June 2008. Texas starter Nick Tepesch exited in the sixth with a 4-0 lead, but the bullpen could not hold.
Meanwhile, Toronto has won three of its last four. The Blue Jays are coming off Thursday's 4-2, series-clinching win over Cleveland. Edwin Encarnacion supplied the power with two home runs, while Juan Francisco also homered and starter J.A. Happ worked six innings of one-run ball.
"I feel great at the plate the last couple of weeks," said Encarnacion, who has gone deep six times over the last 10 games while hitting .333 with 13 RBI in that span. "I'm very happy and very proud because I know when I feel like that I can help my team win a lot of games."
The Blue Jays will turn to right-hander Drew Hutchison for Friday's series opener. Hutchison walked a season-high four batters against the Angels on Sunday as he lasted only 4 1/3 innings after going eight frames in his previous outing against Philadelphia. However, he did notch five strikeouts before exiting and has struck out at least five in seven of his eight starts.
Opposing Hutchison will be Rangers ace Yu Darvish, who is 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA through seven starts. For the second time in just over a year, Darvish was denied a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning in Friday's 8-0 win over the Red Sox. Boston's David Ortiz spoiled this most recent no-hit bid with a single, although not before Darvish fanned 12 batters. Major League Baseball later reversed the scoring on an earlier play that was ruled an error, as Darvish wound up being charged with two hits.
"That's the best I've seen him pitch since he's been here," Washington said. "If he keeps pitching like that, he'll finally do it. He has the ability to do it, it's just not easy to throw a no-hitter."
Toronto won six of seven meetings against the Rangers last season.