Rangers will opt for Hunter over Lee in Game 4
Washington chooses to avoid starting ace on three days' rest
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have decided to include Tommy Hunter in their playoff rotation and not pitch Cliff Lee on three days' rest.The Rangers originally planned to pitch Lee in Game 1 on Wednesday and again in Game 4 (if necessary) on Oct. 10. But the Rangers crunched some numbers and decided that would not be a good idea. "The numbers didn't look good," said manager Ron Washington. "We're going to use our whole pitching staff." Lee, who normally pitches on four days' rest, has never pitched on three days' rest in his entire Major League career. Over the past eight years, there have been 51 instances of a pitcher starting a playoff game on three days' rest. Their combined record is 13-20 with a 5.01 ERA, as opposed to a 4.18 ERA on four days' rest and a 3.80 ERA with five or more days off. There were six starts on three days' rest last year, and the pitchers' cumulative ERA was 6.30. The starter also averaged just five innings per start. "We just decided not to push Cliff out there on three days," Washington said. So they'll go with Hunter, if necessary. He would follow C.J. Wilson in Game 2 and Colby Lewis in Game 3. The Rangers initially announced that Hunter would pitch out of the bullpen in the playoffs. "It's a great opportunity," Hunter said. "It's something I've looked forward to since the beginning of the season -- throw in the postseason. Now I'm getting that opportunity." Hunter, who is 13-4 with a 3.80 ERA in 21 starts and one relief appearance on the season, will make his final start on Friday against the Angels.
Lowe feels good after first inning with Rangers
ARLINGTON -- Reliever Mark Lowe said he was feeling good after his inning of work Wednesday, the first time he'd pitched in a Major League game since May 2, when he was on the mound for the Mariners.
"Just the normal soreness," Lowe said.
The plan for Lowe is to pitch again Friday and Sunday. The Rangers are possibly looking at Lowe to be a part of their playoff bullpen, even though he was out for almost five months after back surgery. They will be looking on with great interest to see how he responds in his second appearance.
Lowe faced four batters, allowing one hit while striking out four. His fastball was around 95 mph.
Texas manager Ron Washington was asked if he was considering pitching Lowe in back-to-back games, since Games 1 and 2 and Games 3 and 4 of next week's American League Division Series will be on consecutive days.
"He's not ready for that," Washington said.
Washington said Lowe's chances to be on the playoff roster won't be impacted by him not pitching on consecutive days.
"We're not going to push him on that," Washington said.
Cantu, Francoeur scratched because of illness
ARLINGTON -- A couple of different illnesses were impacting the Rangers' clubhouse on Thursday, less than a week out from the playoff opener against either Tampa Bay or New York.
First baseman Jorge Cantu was not in the lineup because of a head cold and sore throat. Mitch Moreland started in Cantu's place, giving the rookie a chance in a lefty-lefty matchup with Angels starter Scott Kazmir.
"[Cantu] is under the weather," said manager Ron Washington. "That's why Moreland is out there."
Outfielder Jeff Francoeur was also a late scratch from the lineup because of a stomach virus.
The Rangers need to go 3-1 in their final four home games to match the club record for home wins in a season (52 in 1978). A 3-1 finish would also give the Rangers their best home winning percentage since the '78 team played an extra home game. ... Research on baseball-reference.com by the Rangers' media relations staff indicates that Wednesday's walk-off win on a strikeout by Nelson Cruz was the sixth instance of that happening since 1950. Mitch Moreland scoring from first base on Cruz's strikeout was the only time that has occurred since 1950.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.