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Rangers Look To Rebound From Walk Off Loss

(Sports Network) - The Texas Rangers may have a few reinforcements in the lineup when the American League West front-runners conclude a three-game series tonight with the Kansas City Royals from Kauffman Stadium.

Second baseman Ian Kinsler, out since July 27 due to a strained left groin, is expected to be activated from the disabled list prior to tonight's contest, and the Rangers added some depth with Tuesday's acquisition of Jeff Francoeur from the New York Mets. Texas obtained the veteran outfielder in a trade that sent utility infielder Joaquin Arias to New York.

Francoeur, who hit .237 with 11 homers and 54 RBI with the Mets this season, could make his Rangers debut tonight in place of AL MVP candidate Josh Hamilton, who will sit out the finale to rest a sore right knee. Kinsler may be held out an extra day as well after having a rehab start with Triple-A Oklahoma scheduled for Tuesday canceled due to a rainout.

Texas can afford to rest some of its regulars with an 8 1/2-game lead over second-place Oakland in the division standings. The Rangers have lost three of their last four contests, though, after suffering a 10-9 setback to the Royals on Tuesday.

With the game tied at 9-9 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Wilson Betemit stroked a leadoff double off Texas reliever Darren Oliver (1-2) and Brayan Pena drew a walk two batters later to put two men on with one out. After Oliver fanned Alex Gordon for the second out, Alexi Ogando took over on the mound and walked Yuniesky Betancourt before uncorking a wild pitch that enabled pinch-runner Willie Bloomquist to come home with the deciding score.

"You can't sit back in these situations, especially against a club like that," Royals manager Ned Yost said afterward. "Your stopper (Joakim Soria) was just out on the mound and got you through the inning. You've got to try to find a way to win ballgames. Sometimes you've got to be a little bold to do it."

Gordon drove in three runs for the Royals, who bounced back from a 3-0 loss in the opener of this series, with Jai Miller knocking in a pair of men with a double during a five-run fifth inning.

Texas was down by a 9-6 score after Kansas City's uprising in the fifth, but scored three times in the sixth to pull even. Michael Young, who finished a triple shy of the cycle, had an RBI double during the frame and scored on a Hamilton two-base hit that tied the game at 9-9.

"It's unfortunate to lose that way," said outfielder David Murphy, one of four Texas players to homer on the night. "We fought hard [Tuesday] and we're still in a good spot, so we're not going to dwell on it. It would have been nice if we could have picked our pitchers up, because they've picked up so many times this year."

Vladimir Guerrero had a two-run homer for the Rangers, with Young, Murphy and Mitch Moreland all adding solo shots in a losing cause.

Texas may be in store for another big night offensively in the finale, considering the way Royals scheduled starter Bryan Bullington has performed recently.

After earning a long-awaited first major league win by firing eight shutout innings to best the New York Yankees on August 15, Bullington has been hit hard in back-to-back starts. The former No. 1 overall draft pick surrendered six runs and 11 hits in a five-inning no-decision against the Chicago White Sox on August 21, then was rocked for seven runs and nine hits before exiting after four frames of Friday's loss at Cleveland.

In four starts since being inserted into the Kansas City rotation last month, Bullington is 1-2 with a 6.26 earned run average. He will be facing the Rangers for the first time this evening.

Texas hands the ball to Tommy Hunter, who hasn't had much of a problem picking up wins this season. The stocky right-hander pushed his 2010 record to 11-2 in Friday's 7-3 verdict over Oakland, yielding three runs over 7 2/3 effective innings.

Hunter had thrown eight innings of three-run ball to defeat Baltimore in his prior start, and the Rangers are 13-3 in games he's taken the mound this year.

The 24-year-old is 4-2 with a 4.46 ERA in seven outings on the road thus far in 2010 and has never previously pitched against the Royals.

Texas has won six of eight meetings with Kansas City this season and is 9-4 over its last 13 games played against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

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