Astros-Rangers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 22, 2013
The Texas Rangers have had a difficult time offensively while trying to hang on in the AL wild-card race, but that hasn't been the case when they've faced the Houston Astros. After a disappointing loss, the Rangers are hoping to make up some lost ground by picking up a ninth straight win over the lowly Astros on Monday night. Texas (84-71) will have to regroup after Justin Maxwell belted a walkoff grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning to lead Kansas City to a 4-0 victory Sunday. While Oakland clinched the AL West with the Rangers' loss, Texas fell 1 1/2 games behind Cleveland for the second wild-card spot with seven contests remaining. The Indians wrapped up a four-game sweep over Houston (51-105) on Sunday. "Our season has definitely been up and down, but we have to put that behind us and finish strong," outfielder Craig Gentry told the MLB's official website. "Right now, every game means something." An inconsistent performance at the plate has been partly to blame for the Rangers' swoon this month. After getting shut out for the third time in September, they're averaging 3.4 runs and batting .246 while dropping 15 of 20. Texas, however, should feel confident about turning things around against the major league-worst Astros. The Rangers have averaged 6.5 runs and hit .280 while winning 14 of 16 meetings. Still, they're not about to overlook Houston. "You just can't throw your glove out there," manager Ron Washington warned. "You've got to go out and play." Slugger Adrian Beltre has done much of the damage against the Astros, hitting .444 with five homers, six doubles and 13 RBIs in his last 14 meetings. He's also 3 for 3 with two doubles against Houston starter Jordan Lyles (7-8, 5.26 ERA) this season. After going 3-1 with a 3.31 ERA in his previous five starts, Lyles was tagged for nine runs - seven earned - and eight hits over 3 1-3 innings in Tuesday's 10-0 loss to Cincinnati. "You're going to look at your body of work, but finishing positive would be good for all these guys the last time through the rotation," manager Bo Porter said. The right-hander hasn't had much success versus the Rangers, going 0-4 with an 8.54 ERA in five career meetings. In his only start against them this season, Lyles was pounded for eight runs and 11 hits over four innings in a 12-7 loss May 12. Texas counters with Derek Holland (9-9, 3.48), who is 0-5 with a 4.53 ERA in nine starts at Rangers Ballpark since May 31. Holland also has a 5.08 ERA while allowing 19 walks and nine home runs over a career-worst, eight-start winless drought. He pitched better in his last start, allowing two runs over six innings in Wednesday's 4-3, 12-inning loss at Tampa Bay. The left-hander has allowed five runs over 12 innings in two Texas victories over the Astros. He did not fare in either decision, however, while receiving six total runs of support. This time, he faces a Houston team that has been limited to 14 runs and a .136 average with runners in scoring position during a season-worst nine-game skid. The Astros, who have clinched their third straight 100-loss season, are two defeats away from matching the single-season franchise record, set last year.
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