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Weaver Aims For MLB Strikeout Crown Against Hamilton, Rangers

(Sports Network) - Texas expects to have American League MVP candidate Josh Hamilton back in the lineup this evening when it continues its regular season- ending four-game set against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Manager Ron Washington said the slugger will start and play six innings defensively in either left or center field on Friday, then the team plans to have Hamilton serve as the designated hitter Saturday and return to the field on Sunday.

"Josh is ready to play, so I'm going to play him," Washington said.

Hamilton has not played since September 4 because of two small fractures in his right ribcage that were found in a CT scan last week after initial tests did not reveal the problem.

"I'm fired up," Hamilton said. "I felt like this was a reasonable goal, especially after getting the [anti-inflammatory] injections [10 days ago] and I started feeling better a couple of days after I had them. It's not normal to come back this quick as far as conditioning and stuff like that. You would like to stretch it out a little more. But the circumstances are a little different."

The 29-year-old is batting an MLB-best .361 and ranks sixth in the American League with 31 home runs and is 12th with 97 runs batted in over 130 games.

Texas, which will open ALDS play on Wednesday, continued to tune up for the postseason on Thursday, as Vladimir Guerrero singled home the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift the Rangers to a 3-2 victory.

Guerrero drove in a pair of runs and Nelson Cruz went 3-for-4 and scored twice, including the decisive run, for the Rangers, who have won two in a row and five out of seven to take an 11-game lead in the AL West for the first time in franchise history.

Darren O'Day (6-2) gave up the tying run in the top of the eighth but picked up the win and Neftali Feliz locked down his 39th save with a scoreless ninth.

Rookie hurler Jordan Walden (0-1), who grew up in the Dallas area, took the loss in his lone inning of work for the Angels, who had sandwiched a four-game slide with three-game win streaks entering the series.

Rangers starter Cliff Lee yielded a lone unearned run on four hits without a walk while striking out eight over seven frames and turned over a 2-1 lead to Darren O'Day in the eighth.

"There's no added pressure, no extra pressure," Lee said regarding the upcoming postseason. "I just want to go out there and do what I do. If everything's where I need it to be and I'm right mechanically and able to make pitches, then I expect to have success."

Heading to the hill for the Rangers tonight will be Tommy Hunter, who was recently named the team's fourth starter for the playoffs. Despite making his season debut on June 5, Hunter is 13-4 with a 3.80 ERA.

Hunter lost to the Angels the last time he faced them and is 1-3 in four starts against them with a 10.26 ERA.

Anaheim, meanwhile, will counter with righty Jered Weaver, who is trying to win the strikeout title. Weaver enters tonight's tilt with 229 strikeouts, leaving him three behind Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, who is done for the season.

Weaver, who is 7-4 lifetime against the Rangers, is 13-12 on the year with a 3.02 ERA.

The Rangers have won nine of 16 matchups with Anaheim this season, including a 6-1 ledger in the Lone Star State.