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Rays’ Corey Kluber seeks another gem vs. Rangers

May 28, 2022; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) throws a pitch during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Corey Kluber made history the last time he faced the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas.

Then with the New York Yankees on May 19, 2021, Kluber threw the lone no-hitter of his impressive career. A two-time American League Cy Young Award winner, Kluber recorded the Yankees’ first no-hitter since 1999.

Kluber (1-2, 4.03 ERA) will take the mound on Thursday in the finale of a four-game series with the Rangers. Texas will counter with hard-throwing left-hander Taylor Hearn (3-3, 5.36).

The Rangers have won two of the first three in the series, but the Rays rallied for a 4-3 win in 11 innings on Wednesday night.

“We have scuffled,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said after the Wednesday game. “I liked the way the guys stayed at it.”

Despite the loss, the Rangers have been playing better in recent weeks. They are now 24-25, but they reached the .500 mark earlier in the week after starting the season 2-9 and 6-14.

“We’re still behind, obviously, in the standings,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said before the Wednesday game. “I think it’s just a constant buildup. … We have way higher expectations than to get back to .500.”

The Rangers figure to get a test from Kluber. The 36-year-old right-hander is providing a veteran presence to a Tampa Bay rotation that has dealt with injuries this season. He also has some brief history with the Rangers.

Kluber was with the Rangers during the 2020 season, which was shortened to 60 games by the pandemic. He made just one appearance, which lasted one inning and 18 pitches, before exiting due to a right shoulder injury. The Rangers declined Kluber’s $18 million option for 2021, and he eventually signed with the Yankees.

No-hitting the Rangers in a 2-0 win last year was a career highlight for Kluber.

“I’ve never been part of one or witnessed one, let alone thrown one,” Kluber said after his no-hitter.

This season, Kluber has 42 strikeouts and eight walks in 44 2/3 innings. He is 5-1 with a 3.38 ERA in nine career starts against the Rangers.

He will look to have a more even month of June after an up-and-down May. In five starts last month, his innings per outing were six, three, six, three, six. Kluber went six innings in a no-decision against the Yankees in his latest outing, on Sunday.

Hearn has been hot-and-cold as well for Texas.

The southpaw enters Thursday fresh off a win Sunday road win over the Oakland Athletics. Hearn gave up three runs (two earned) on eight hits and a walk with five strikeouts in six innings.

However, in his two starts immediately preceding that one, he took a loss against the Houston Astros following a no-decision in a four-inning appearance against the Los Angeles Angels. He gave up a combined seven runs on 11 hits in 8 2/3 innings during those contests.

Hearn hasn’t faced the Rays much. In three relief appearances covering 5 1/3 innings, he has an 0-1 record and 1.69 ERA.

At Globe Life Field this year, Hearn is 2-2 with a 4.39 ERA in six starts.

–Field Level Media