"I always talk about process, but the bottom line is it comes down to winning games," Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. "Everything we do is to win games, so we are starting to put the pieces together and guys are starting to believe. There is a lot of character in that ballclub. They do believe. Whether people outside believe, we don't care. We may not finish .500, but our guys are investing in things that will help us win games."
The Rangers are doing it with offense -- they rank tied for second in the majors with 271 runs scored and averaged 6.6 runs per game during their recent eight-game stretch.
Outfielder Joey Gallo has been the heart of Texas' offense, with 15 homers, 35 RBIs and leading the American League in slugging percentage (.687) and OPS (1.113). He has come up big against the Angels so far this season -- he has five homers and 10 RBIs in six games.
Gallo and his teammates will get their first look at Angels right-hander Griffin Canning, who is coming off his best start of the season since being called up from Triple-A Salt Lake on April 30.
Against Kansas City last Saturday, Canning threw seven scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and one walk. Angels manager Brad Ausmus said the game against the Royals showed that Canning is learning as he goes.
"The strike-throwing ability and the use of all his pitches, including his changeup," Ausmus said of Canning's recent improvements. "... We know the slider is the best breaking ball and he uses the curveball quite a bit, but we haven't seen the changeup (until now), especially in tough counts. Not only to be effective with it but to get that many swings and misses."
Canning (2-1, 3.80 ERA) will be opposed by Rangers left-hander Drew Smyly (0-3, 6.51), who is still looking for his first win of the season. Smyly has lasted at least five innings only once in seven games this season.
Smyly has been equally bad against the Angels in his career, going 0-4 with a 5.59 ERA in seven games (five starts). Smyly has held Angels center fielder Mike Trout to four hits in 15 career at-bats against him, but two of the hits were home runs and the other two were doubles.
Trout has been good against Rangers pitching this season, hitting five homers with nine RBIs in seven games. In his career, Trout has hit more home runs (30) against the Rangers than any other team (tied with Oakland). In 139 career games against Texas, Trout is hitting .335 with a 1.080 OPS.
While the Rangers have played well of late, the Angels are moving in the opposite direction. They were just swept by the Minnesota Twins -- allowing a whopping eight homers in a 16-7 loss Thursday -- and have lost four in a row and six of their last eight games.