By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — After a slow start, Marcus Semien’s hitting his stride — and home runs.
Semien homered twice and tied a Texas franchise record for hits in a doubleheader as the Rangers connected for four homers in a 6-3 win over Cleveland Guardians to earn a split on Tuesday night.
Cleveland won the opener, also 6-3, behind starter Cal Quantrill.
Semien homered three times in the two games and finished 7-for-8, raising his average from .196 to .221. Semien, who was batting just .177 at the end of May, has six homers in his last 11 games after going 43 without one.
“Balls do start falling,” Semien. “That’s nothing I’ve changed. It’s just constant work in the cage and getting into position where you’re hitting fastballs, taking breaking balls out of the zone and controlling the strike zone at the same time.
“And when I’m doing both of those things, I’m usually doing a lot better. I think I’m on the right track.”
Semien’s seven hits matched the team mark for a twinbill shared by Marlon Byrd (2009) and Fred Valentine (1968).
The Guardians reached .500 for the first time since May 14 with their win in the opener. But they only stayed there a few hours, losing the nightcap of their fourth home doubleheader already this season.
Among the AL’s top power-hitting teams, the Rangers teed off in Game 2 against Guardians rookie Kirk McCarty (0-1), making his first major league start.
Semien homered in the second, and Jonah Heim added a solo shot ahead of Nathaniel Lowe’s two-run homer in the fourth that put the Rangers up 5-0 against McCarty, who was pulled after four innings.
“Just thought he made some mistakes,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “He’s got to be really efficient. You give some of those guys a 5-6 pitch look and they get pretty dangerous.”
Semien connected again in the eighth off reliever Anthony Gose, a leadoff shot that put the Rangers ahead 6-3.
Taylor Hearn (4-4) didn’t allow a run until the sixth, when the Guardians scored three times off the Texas lefty.
Amed Rosario hit an RBI single and rookie Oscar Gonzalez delivered a two-out, two-run single off reliever Dennis Santana, who got pinch-hitter Andrés Giménez to foul out and end the threat.
Joe Barlow worked the ninth for his 11th save.
Texas center fielder Eli White twice robbed Cleveland star José Ramírez of extra bases with terrific catches. He made a diving grab in right-center in the first and a sliding backhander in left-center in the fourth.
“I’m sure he really doesn’t like me right now and I can’t really blame him,” White said. “But it’s all about baseball and making the plays.”
In the opener, Quantrill (3-3) stayed unbeaten at home and Owen Miller drove in two runs in Cleveland’s sixth win in seven games.
“We will not use youth as an excuse,” Quantrill said. “We won’t use the rain as an excuse. We won’t use the lack of home games or the weird schedule or tough opponents. None of that matters to us.
“We think that we can be a playoff team this year, and this was the first step towards that.”
Quantrill is 7-0 in 20 career starts at Progressive Field. He’s the only AL pitcher to make at least 15 home starts and not lose over the past two seasons.
Miller hit a two-run single in a four-run third off Jon Gray (1-3), who had never faced Cleveland before.
“I had one ugly inning and it cost us,” Gray said.
Rangers rookie outfielder Steele Walker homered for his first hit in the majors.
With the Rangers trailing 5-1, Walker led off the seventh with his shot over the right-field fence. When he got back to the dugout, the 25-year-old, who made his debut on Sunday, was given the cold-shoulder treatment by his teammates before they broke down and congratulated him.
“It was a relief, but it also felt good to know that I’m contributing to try and get a win as well,” Walker said.
While Walker got back his home run ball from fans as a souvenir, he won’t be using the bat he hit it with again.
Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase broke it in the ninth with a 101 mph fastball.
“Oh, I’ve seen 101, for sure,” Walker said. “But 101 cutting? That’s Wiffle-ball-type stuff. That’s a whole different deal, a whole different mindset.”
Before the game, the Rangers placed reliever Brett Martin on the COVID-19 list. Bench coach Donnie Ecker was also placed in health and safety protocols.
The Guardians have had seven rainouts at home, forcing them to play four doubleheaders with five more scheduled.
Rangers manager Chris Woodward has empathy for Cleveland’s situation, which is something that’s hard for him to relate to since Texas plays in a domed stadium.
“We don’t deal with it,” Woodward said.
Major League Baseball returned to nine-inning doubleheaders this season after playing seven innings the last two years. Woodward doesn’t mind the return, but he’s not the one having to worry about wearing out his pitchers.
“I’m fine with the nine (innings) only because we never get rained out,” Woodward cracked. “Three teams in our division have a roof and the other two rarely see a drop of rain — in Oakland and Anaheim. It’s easier for us.”
Rangers: Utilityman Brad Miller (right hip impingement) remains on schedule to return Friday after being sidelined since May 29.
Coming off an 11-strikeout performance in his last outing, Guardians ace Shane Bieber (3-3) starts the series finale against Dane Dunning (1-3), winless in his last six starts.
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