"I think they're the best team in the American League. Going to the World Series in back-to-back years is a pretty good indicator," said Cleveland manager Manny Acta. "They have everything: They have pitching, they have defense, they can hit [and] they have a deep lineup. But they don't win every single game, and we're not looking at it as a measuring stick. We still have to play the game on the field."
Texas, indeed, doesn't win every game. But prior to Friday's series opener, the Rangers could boast of having the second-best record in the Major Leagues. They have now lost three straight games for the first time all season, but they've also managed a 13-7 mark in their last 20 games.
The Indians, meanwhile, have won five of their last six series and have been in first place for 11 consecutive days, the team's longest stretch since a two-month span last season.
Texas will give the ball to southpaw Derek Holland for Saturday's game, and Cleveland will counter with veteran Derek Lowe. Holland, a native of Newark, Ohio, has given up 12 earned runs over his last two starts and said that he needs to have a better outing against the Indians.
"I just need to continue to improve," Holland said. "The big thing is working on my location. All my bullpen sessions have been about situations and location. My mechanics are sound. I don't think I have to change my mechanics. When I get beat, it's because I leave the ball down the middle."
Cleveland has played veteran Johnny Damon in three consecutive games, and the 38-year-old is cognizant of the fact that he needs to play well in order to earn another contract.
Damon, who signed with the Indians on April 17, was activated on Tuesday and thrust into the lineup on Wednesday.
"If I don't play well, it could be the end, and I'm not quite ready for that," said Damon of his pressure to perform. "That's why I wanted to come out and join the Indians and see what we can make of this."
Rangers: Texas feeling Beltre's absence
The three-game losing streak has coincided with an injury that has kept third baseman Adrian Beltre out of the lineup. Beltre has actually not started five straight games, and Texas is 1-5 this season when he doesn't start. Manager Ron Washington said that Beltre might be able to serve as designated hitter on Saturday, but Texas won't take any chances if Beltre doesn't feel ready to go.
"We're going day by day," said Beltre, who pinch-hit in the ninth inning on Friday. "It feels a little better than the last game I played. We're going day by day, and hope it gets better soon."
Indians: Damon has plenty to contribute
Damon hit a two-run triple in Friday night's win, a shot that left him 275 hits shy of 3,000 for his career. Acta said that Damon can serve as a positive role model for his young clubhouse, but he also said that Damon has plenty left to contribute in the field and at the plate.
"His track record speaks for itself," Acta said. "He's a guy who has been there and done that, been on winning clubs, has close to 3,000 hits, still had a very productive year last year. We're going to do the best we can to keep him healthy and see how much he can play in the outfield and help our lineup out."
Cleveland and Texas are two of five AL teams that haven't been shut out this season.
Cleveland has the best road record (9-3) in the Majors, and Texas (9-4) is just behind.
Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus has hit safely in each of his 24 career games against Cleveland. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's the longest current start-of-career streak by any player against any team.