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Kirkman is trying to get turned around

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OAKLAND -- Rangers reliever Michael Kirkman had an eventful weekend in Houston. On Saturday, he pitched to two batters in the Rangers' 8-7 victory over the Astros, allowing a single and a double in the ninth inning before being replaced by closer Joe Nathan.

On Sunday, Kirkman came into the game in the seventh inning with the Rangers holding a 12-1 lead. This time he set down the side in order, striking out two in the process.

"A real confidence booster," Kirkman said. "I threw some good pitches and got some results, so it was definitely a confidence booster."

Kirkman still has a 7.36 ERA for the season, while opponents are hitting .333 off him. He averages 18.41 baserunners per nine innings, which is the third-highest rate among relievers in the American League. That's not what the Rangers were expecting after Kirkman pitched so well in Spring Training, holding opponents to 6.55 baserunners per nine innings.

"A lot of the year, I've thrown better pitches than in Spring Training and balls have scooted through," Kirkman said. "I just have to keep making pitches and get outs. I've had a few bad games, but overall I've thrown the ball well."

Manager Ron Washington said Kirkman's biggest issue has been missing location, but there was significant improvement on Sunday.

"I thought he recovered well, kept the ball down and focused on spotting his fastball and snapping off his breaking ball," Washington said. "It never has been his stuff. It was his location. That's what he has to continue to do. Hopefully yesterday was a good start."

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.

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