Mitch Moreland and Lucas Harrell helped the Texas Rangers get another big win as they pull away again in the American League West.
Moreland homered for the fifth time in his last five starts and Harrell won in his Texas debut as the Rangers beat the Kansas City Royals 5-3 to finish a sweep of the four-game series.
After having their 10-game division lead shrink to 2 1/2 games last Wednesday, the Rangers have pushed the advantage back up to six games.
Harrell (3-2) gave up three runs and four hits -- including solo home runs to Eric Hosmer and Drew Butera -- in six innings. The 31-year-old right-hander was acquired from Atlanta last Wednesday to help the Rangers' injury-riddled starting rotation. Sam Dyson earned his 22nd save.
"More than anything else, what we saw this weekend is when we get quality starts, we have an opportunity to utilize our bullpen the way we need to," Texas manager Jeff Banister said.
The Rangers received quality starts in three of the four series games. They received quality starts in only three of their previous 21 games in July.
Harrell was the eighth Rangers pitcher to make a start in July. Colby Lewis and Derek Holland missed the entire month on the disabled list, and Yu Darvish returned from the DL on July 16.
"This team's already on a roll," Harrell said. "My job is to come in and get people out and keep us in the game."
Kansas City hit just 1-for-25 with runners in scoring position during the series. The defending World Series champions went 7-19 in July, their worst month since recording the same record in July 2012.
"We take probably the last couple of weeks and try to forget that," Eric Hosmer said. "Times are just rough."
Moreland's two-run homer was his 18th this season, the last five coming within 16 at-bats. Nomar Mazara also homered against the Royals, who have allowed an AL-high 141 homers this season.
Since Prince Fielder was lost for the balance of the season to another neck injury, Moreland has hit .366 with six homers. In the series, Moreland hit .615 with four homers.
"I'm trying to go up there and have good at-bats," Moreland said. "It definitely worked out well for me this series."
Dillon Gee (3-5) gave up four runs and seven hits over six innings in his longest and most effective start of the season. He had a 6.43 ERA in six previous starts.
Banister sat young power-hitter Joey Gallo, a left-handed hitter, against the right-handed Gee. Gallo is 1-for-14 with nine strikeouts since being recalled from Triple-A Round Rock last week.
"This guy has minor league power pedigree that we're willing to be patient with," Banister said.
"We're still winning, and that's the best part about it," Gallo said. "It just takes time."
The temperature was 96 degrees at first pitch and reached 99. ... Gee played collegiately at Texas-Arlington and makes his off-season home in nearby Fort Worth. ... Rangers manager Jeff Banister gave CF Ian Desmond and SS Elvis Andrus the day off ahead of Monday's travel day.
Rangers RF Shin-Soo Choo (back) did rehab work Sunday for the second straight day and reported no discomfort. He hopes to be ready when eligible for re-activation on Thursday.
July was a notably bad month for the Rangers. The club finished 11-15 in July and saw their team ERA raised and batting average drop. Despite their struggles, their AL West lead (6 games ahead of the Astros) is the largest it's been in three weeks. The Rangers also get a boost in the fact that over the last two plus months of the season the Rangers play 31 home games, where the club is 33-17.
July has not been all bad recently though, the win is the Rangers seventh in the last 10 days, which is a huge turnaround after starting the month 4-12. The improvement can be attributed to three simple facts:
- They play well against the Kansas City Royals, winning six of seven against the defending champions this month.
- They have not played the Minnesota Twins, though Minnesota is one of the worst teams in baseball they beat the Rangers soundly (5-2) to begin the month.
- Elvis Andrus, Mitch Moreland, and Rougned Odor had pretty good months; all three batted over .300 and combined for 28 extra-base hits.
Texas: RHP Yu Darvish (2-2) will make his seventh start since starting his season in late May following Tommy John surgery when the Rangers open a series at Baltimore on Tuesday. Both losses have come since returning from the disabled list on July 16 following shoulder discomfort.