Gray, Rangers eager for fresh start in second half vs. Guardians

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The American League West and the American League Central leaders will open the second half of the season when the Texas Rangers face the Cleveland Guardians on Friday in Arlington, Texas

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The Rangers, who won 52 games in the first half and have a two-game lead over the Houston Astros, are looking to start fresh in the second half after stumbling into the All-Star break by losing six of their last eight games

The Guardians, who sit at the .500 mark with a 1/2-game lead over the Minnesota Twins, closed out the first half by taking three of four from the Kansas City Royals

For the Rangers, they return to action behind right-hander Jon Gray (6-5, 3.29 ERA). Gray lost three straight starts going into the All-Star break, although he pitched better than his record might suggest. For example, Gray was the tough-luck loser after throwing five innings of one-run ball in the Rangers‘ 1-0 loss to the Yankees on June 24

In his career vs. the Guardians, Gray is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in two starts

Offensively, the Rangers are coming off an impressive first half of the season in which they led the majors with 531 runs scored and ranked second with an .801 OPS

That is largely why the Rangers had five starters in the All-Star game: second baseman Marcus Semien, shortstop Corey Seager, third baseman Josh Jung, catcher Jonah Heim and outfielder Adolis Garcia. Pitcher Nathan Eovaldi also made the AL roster

But the Rangers struggled down the stretch and are looking to find the form they had for the majority of the first half

“We just need to play clean baseball again,” Semien told the Dallas Morning News. “What is clean baseball? It’s good pitching, good defense, timely hitting and fundamentally sound everything. That’s what we are going to have to do from here on out. If we do those things, we’ll take our chances.”

For the Guardians, they are happy to be sitting atop a relatively weak division with a .500 record. Manager Terry Francona acknowledged he would prefer a better record, but his team is in position to make a playoff run in the second half

“I think the one thing that’s really good is where we are, we’ve kind of earned the right to come back in the second half and play really meaningful games,” Francona told reporters. “If you show up and you’re a little bit nervous or excited, that’s a good thing. That’s something I’m grateful for.”

Cleveland right-hander Aaron Civale gets the nod to start the second half of the season. Over his career, Civale has pitched slightly better in the second half (3.56 ERA) compared to the first half (3.77 ERA).

Civale (3-2, 2.56 ERA) is coming off one of his best starts of the season, throwing seven scoreless innings against the Royals on July 7. He scattered two hits with a season-high nine strikeouts.

Civale has had success against the Rangers throughout his career, too, going 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA in three career starts. Both of his wins against the Rangers came at Globe Life Field, and he has a 1.64 ERA in the ballpark

Offensively, All-Star Jose Ramirez had an impressive first half for the Guardians. He has a .289 batting average with 14 home runs and 53 RBIs. Josh Naylor, regarded as one of the top snubs from this year’s All-Star Game, is leading the team with a .305 batting average to go along with 11 home runs and 64 RBIs. Naylor closed the first half strong, going 8-for-17 with four RBIs in the Royals series

–Field Level Media

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