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SEA@TEX: Ross Jr. throws 7 2/3 scoreless innings

Quickly examine the current standings in the American League Central.

Ok, it's far too early to look at any standings in the course of a 162-game Major League Baseball season. But the proximity of the division's five teams might be a harbinger of things to come.

Detroit is in first, which is to be expected. The Indians are in last, but sit just 2 1/2 games back. The White Sox, even with their fourth straight setback coming Saturday night, are just two games removed from the top spot.

This tale isn't so much about the AL Central rankings on April 20 but more about the White Sox trying to hang close in what could be a very competitive battle. With that battle in mind, the White Sox hope to avoid the three-game sweep Sunday afternoon against the Rangers.

"I like where we are at right now," said White Sox starter John Danks prior to Saturday's 6-3 loss. "We are playing hard, and I don't feel like we are really out of games. The offense is picking us up right now. I expect the pitching to get back to where it has been since I've been here."

"We've played games where we've played real good, and then you have a couple like [Friday]," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "If you're going to play like that all year, you're not going to have a chance. But do we expect to play that way all year? No. Everybody else has struggles and gets hot, the ebbs and flows, so hopefully we can stay in that mix and get a good run later in the year and come away with it."

Robbie Ross Jr., is coming off the best outing of his brief career as a Texas starter. He threw a career-high 7 2/3 innings on Tuesday against Seattle and hasn't allowed an earned run over his last two starts, totaling 13 scoreless frames.

Ross didn't issue a walk Tuesday after walking six batters in his previous start. He said he tried to work quicker in that start and the strategy worked.

"I was trying to limit my pitch count and work as quick as I could," Ross said. "Go right at them and attack. It's the same process this next time -- hopefully I can try to do the same thing."

The left-handed Ross has made three starts in 2014 after making 123 appearances over the previous two seasons, all in relief. Ross hopes to build on Tuesday's performance and continue to pitch deeper into games.

"I'm feeling like it's possible and also feeling like I can repeat it," Ross said.

Erik Johnson takes the mound for the White Sox, coming off of his best outing of the year Tuesday against the Red Sox. Johnson fanned a career-high nine and allowed one earned run over 6 2/3 innings after making some slight tweaks out of the windup and the stretch after studying video.

His goal is to have that same kind of success Sunday, giving the White Sox momentum going into their first meeting of the year with the Tigers in Detroit.

White Sox: Beckham closing in on a return

Gordon Beckham finished 1-for-5 with a double and two RBIs during Double-A Birmingham's 5-4 victory over Tennessee. Beckham started at designated hitter and played in his seventh straight contest as part of his injury rehab assignment.

The White Sox second baseman shouldn't have to test his strained left oblique much longer with the Barons. He could return to the White Sox as soon as the four-game set against the Tigers in Comerica Park and, barring a setback, will be back next weekend at home against the Rays.

Rangers: Kouzmanoff continues to impress

Kevin Kouzmanoff was one of the last cuts the Rangers made at the end of Spring Training -- he had a productive spring, hitting .370 -- and now that he's back on the roster, in for the injured Adrian Beltre, he has picked up where he left off.

With a solo homer Saturday night, Kouzmanoff has hit in all 10 games he has played as a Ranger. That's tied for the second-longest streak to begin a Rangers career, behind Fred Manrique's 11-game streak in 1989.

Kouzmanoff is hitting .395 with two homers in those 10 games.

"He comes up big for us all the time on both ends," manager Ron Washington said. "He plays the game, he runs the bases, he plays defense, smart player, gets hits. One thing he does, he doesn't go up there and get cheated, when he sees something he likes, he lets the game."

Worth Noting

• Left-handed pitcher Donnie Veal was outrighted by the White Sox to Triple-A Charlotte on Saturday. The 29-year-old Veal was designated for assignment on Thursday.

• Jose Abreu snapped a 1-for-25 slump with two singles back up the middle. He also walked.

• Adam Dunn has reached base in 14 straight games. He also picked up his first stolen base since April 5, 2013 vs. the Mariners and his fourth overall as part of the White Sox.

• The 12 RBIs for the Rangers nine-hole hitters are tops in the American League and second in the Majors behind the Giants' 13.

• Kevin Kouzmanoff extended his season-opening hit streak to 10 with a solo homer leading off the eighth. It is tied for the second-longest streak to begin a Rangers career behind Fred Manrique's 11-game streak in 1989.

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