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Harden, Rangers Look To Sweep Rays

(Sports Network) - East meets West once again in the battle of top teams in the American League this afternoon, when the Texas Rangers host the Tampa Bay Rays in the finale of a three-game series at Arlington Stadium.

In Saturday's middle test of this set, Tommy Hunter was sensational in his season debut, hurling a complete game to lead Texas past Tampa Bay, 6-1 for its second consecutive victory over the Rays.

Hunter (1-0) allowed five hits, did not issue and walk and fanned four in sparking the AL West-leading Rangers to their fourth win in their last five games overall. Josh Hamilton homered for a second straight game and Elvis Andrus had two hits and knocked in a pair of runs for Texas, which has won seven of its eight meetings with the Rays held in Arlington since the start of last season.

James Shields (5-4) suffered the loss for the Rays after allowing all six runs -- three earned -- on 10 hits while walking one and striking out four. Sean Rodriguez accounted for the visitors' lone run with a solo homer,

Tampa Bay, which owns a major league-best 21-8 road record this season, suffered just its second series defeat in 10 away sets in 2010.

The Rays will try to avoid a sweep when they send Matt Garza to the hill this afternoon . Garza has been mired in a slump, however, having gone winless in his last five starts while suffering a loss in three consecutive matchups.

The last time the right-hander was on the mound, he fell victim to Toronto by a 3-2 margin on Monday. In the loss, Garza surrendered all three runs on 10 hits and finished just 6 1/3 innings before being removed.

Despite the setback to the Blue Jays, Garza is still 3-2 in road starts, and that record comes with an impressive 2.35 ERA. However, his numbers against the Rangers are not quite as good. In seven career outings against Texas, he is just 3-3 with a so-so 4.30 earned run average.

The Rangers will turn to Rich Harden, who snapped a four-game winless streak with a 9-6 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. Harden was not at his best, however, allowing four runs on seven hits and three walks in just five innings. Despite the poor showing, he still managed to grab a win.

This will be the sixth start of the season for Harden in front of the home crowd, and while the hard-throwing right-hander has a mediocre 3.70 ERA in those starts, he is just 1-0 in Arlington.

This will also be the sixth career start for Harden against the Rays. In his previous five matchups against Tampa, he has recorded a 3-1 mark with a 4.94 earned run average.

Saturday's win was Texas' eighth in 11 overall matchups with Tampa Bay dating back to the start of last season.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.