(Photo credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports)
Josh Naylor aims to continue his torrid hitting on Saturday when the host Cleveland Guardians face the Texas Rangers in the second contest of a three-game series.
The first baseman matched a career high with four hits and joined Andres Gimenez in driving in three runs apiece during Cleveland's 12-3 romp over Texas on Friday. Naylor is batting a robust .366 (15-for-41) with two homers and 12 RBIs since returning from the injured list on Sept. 3.
So what was the key to getting Naylor back on track? Well, Naylor said he stacked the deck while competing against "unrealistic-type velocity" from a pitching machine to sharpen both his skills and his mind.
"You're facing a machine and you move up a few steps so it looks like it's 120 miles per hour -- and you have to try to hit that," Naylor said. "Those are the things I did in my rehab process to stay consistent and keep myself kind of humbled in a way, because I know I'm gonna fail on that machine a lot. Failure has to be your best friend in this game. You have to be willing to fail and learn from it."
The Guardians (70-78) had been failing quite a bit, losing eight of 11 games before erupting for 15 hits in the series opener. Gimenez belted a two-run homer on Friday and is batting .382 (13-for-34) over his past nine games.
The Rangers (82-65), who trail the Houston Astros (83-65) by a half-game in the American League West, saw their six-game winning streak come to a screeching halt. Texas, which holds the second AL wild-card spot, mustered only two hits over seven innings against Lucas Giolito, who struck out 12.
"It was an off-night everywhere for us," Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. "What you saw was a good pitcher in Giolito on top of his game. Give him credit."
Texas shortstop Corey Seager is riding a six-game hitting streak. He has recorded an extra-base hit in five of those games, and 11 of his past 16 hits overall have gone for extra bases (six doubles, five homers).
Seager will look to continue that success against Cleveland rookie right-hander Tanner Bibee (10-4, 3.03 ERA).
Bibee has yielded just two earned runs in each of his past four outings but has just one win to show for it. He was saddled with a hard-luck loss on Sunday despite allowing only two hits and striking out eight in seven innings during a 2-1 setback to the Los Angeles Angels.
Two balk calls in the third inning contributed to the undoing of Bibee. The 24-year-old, however, retired the last 14 batters he faced and did not issue a walk.
Bibee settled for a no-decision in his lone encounter against Texas. He allowed two runs on five hits and struck out six in six innings on July 16.
Rangers right-hander Dane Dunning (10-6, 3.91 ERA) recorded his first win since Aug. 2 after allowing three runs in six innings en route to a 10-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday.
"I felt like I had command of all my pitches," said Dunning, who uses a sinker, slider, cutter and changeup. "I was just going out there trying to get the ball rolling."
Dunning, 28, is 0-2 with a 9.82 ERA in three career appearances (all starts) against Cleveland.
--Field Level Media