ST. PETERSBURG -- The Nationals are making a late bid for the second National League Wild Card spot, and Tanner Roark has been a big part of their surge. Roark is 7-0 with a 1.08 ERA in three starts and nine relief appearances since coming up from Triple-A Syracuse on Aug 6. He pitched seven scoreless innings in a 4-0 victory over the Braves on Tuesday.
Roark was originally drafted by the Rangers in the 25th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He was not considered a top prospect when the Rangers traded him and pitcher Ryan Tatusko to the Nationals on July 30, 2010, for infielder Cristian Guzman. At the time, second baseman Ian Kinsler was on the disabled list and the Rangers needed Guzman to help plug the hole.
Roark was 10-5 with a 4.20 ERA in 22 games for Double-A Frisco at the time of the trade. He then had two undistinguished seasons in 2011-12, going 15-26 with a 4.52 ERA between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse in the Nationals' system. Then Roark had a breakthrough season this year at Syracuse, going 9-3 with a 3.15 ERA.
"I watched him on TV the other day," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "He's doing a nice job. He is a big body guy with a good sinker and throws a lot of strikes. He's certainly gotten better."
Guzman hit .152 with the Rangers, ended up on the disabled list with a strained quad muscle and was not on the postseason roster. He has never played again. Tatusko is still at Triple-A Syracuse.
Rangers mixing and matching who starts at DH
ST. PETERSBURG -- Ian Kinsler was at designated hitter on Wednesday, with Jurickson Profar getting the start at second base. Kinsler was filling a position that has produced a .722 OPS this season, which would be the lowest for the Rangers at DH since 1989.
The Rangers have had 12 different players start at DH this season. Lance Berkman leads with 65, but he's had just four since coming off the disabled list at the beginning of September. The rotation will continue the rest of the season, with Jeff Baker expected to start there on Thursday against Rays left-hander Matt Moore.
"I felt like today I needed to get one of my infielders off his feet," manager Ron Washington said. "I'm giving it to Kinsler today, and tomorrow with a left-hander, it will be Baker. When we get to Kansas City, we'll see."
Berkman is 0-for-12 in five games since being activated off the disabled list. He missed almost two months with inflammation in his left hip and a chronic sore right knee, and the inflammation limits him to batting left-handed. He started at DH on Tuesday and had one at-bat against right-hander Jeremy Hellickson. When the Rays brought left-hander Wesley Wright in during the third inning, the Rangers had to pinch-hit Berkman with Baker to lead off the fourth.
"He's still in the mix," Washington said. "I'm trying to get him some at-bats so he can get the feel for seeing pitches. I still feel he is one of those guys who can wake up on a cold snowy day and get a base hit."
Cruz eligible for tiebreaker games
ST. PETERSBURG -- With six teams still in the hunt for the two American League Wild Card spots, there is a possibility the Rangers could play one or two tiebreaker games before they even get to the Wild Card Game.
If so, the Rangers expect outfielder Nelson Cruz to be eligible for those games. Cruz is currently serving a 50-game suspension for violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. That suspension ends after the 162nd game of the season. Texas has not made an official decision if Cruz will be added to the postseason roster, but there is strong sentiment within the organization to do that. Cruz is currently working out in the instructional league.
The American League Wild Card Game is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 2. If the Rangers are tied with one other team for the second Wild Card spot, that game would be played on Monday, Sept. 30. If there are more than two teams tied for the Wild Card spots, then tiebreaker games would be held on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. The schedule would be determined by Major League Baseball's tiebreaking procedures.
The Rangers went into Wednesday's action tied with the Rays for the AL Wild Card lead. The Indians were a half-game back, the Orioles were two back and the Yankees and the Royals were 3 1/2 back. The Rangers have a three-game series with the Royals that begins on Friday at Kauffman Stadium.
With rotations set, Texas could miss Weaver
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rangers could miss right-hander Jered Weaver during their season-ending four-game series with the Angels next week at the Ballpark in Arlington.
With the way the Angels' rotation is currently set up, Weaver is scheduled to pitch this Friday against the Mariners. His next start would fall on Wednesday against the Athletics, unless Angels manager Mike Scioscia adjusts his rotation. That would likely be his last start of the season unless he comes back on three days' rest to face the Rangers on the final Sunday.
The Angels' rotation for the Rangers series is currently set up for Jerome Williams to pitch the opener on Thursday, followed by C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards and Jason Vargas. Weaver is 7-3 with a 3.14 ERA in 12 starts since the All-Star break. Wilson is 8-0 with a 3.36 ERA in 12 starts since the break, although he escaped with a no-decision after allowing six runs in four innings against Texas on July 30.
The Rangers are scheduled to face Royals right-handers Ervin Santana, Jeremy Guthrie and James Shields this weekend in Kansas City. Texas then returns home to play the Astros in a three-game series beginning on Monday. Houston is set up to throw right-hander Brad Peacock on Monday, followed by left-handers Dallas Keuchel and Brett Oberholtzer.
• Pitching coach Mike Maddux said he had a "very good" bullpen session with Matt Garza on Tuesday. Said Maddux: "Just a reminder that a genius on the mound is a simple mind. Clear the head, and let your ability shine through."
• Rangers manager Ron Washington said he is leaning toward having Geovany Soto behind the plate on Thursday with Yu Darvish on the mound. It would be the third straight game Soto has caught Darvish. Washington said he is not assigning Soto as Darvish's personal catcher, saying, "If I decide to go with Soto, it's just because I felt like it. I reserve the right to change my mind."
• Leonys Martin, who had two doubles and a home run on Tuesday, is only the third Rangers player this season to have three extra-base hits in a game. The others were Adrian Beltre on May 12 against the Astros and Nelson Cruz on June 17 against the Athletics.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.