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Sat, Aug 10, 2013 - 7:10 PM ET
 

Rangers-Astros Preview

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Needed or not, the Texas Rangers will likely showcase their newest acquisition Saturday.

Alex Rios is expected to make his debut for the Rangers as they seek their 11th win in 12 games and ninth in 11 tries against the Astros on Saturday night.

"For myself, I'm going to go to a team that's fighting for first place and I think that's going to be refreshing," Rios said. "They're trying to win the division and go to the playoffs, so let's see what happens."

The Rangers (66-50) have thrived since Nelson Cruz's suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, tallying 32 runs and 47 hits in winning all four games without him. They have won five straight overall and are one percentage point behind Oakland for the AL West lead.

Still, without Cruz - who leads Texas with 27 home runs and 76 RBIs - the Rangers likely needed another bat. Rios, who the Rangers acquired from the White Sox for a player to be named later or cash, is batting .277 with 12 home runs, 55 RBIs and 26 stolen bases.

"What it does is just add to what the dynamic already is here,'' Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I don't think the void that Nelson left can be filled. (Rios) is a solid baseball player and we just want him to come in and play his game. He fits in well, extremely well."

He'll join Adrian Beltre, who is hitting .455 with three home runs in Texas' last 11 games.

The Astros (37-77), who have lost 16 of 20, are struggling to fix a sputtering bullpen. Their relievers - who were reached for six runs and five hits with five walks in Friday's 9-5 loss, have blown eight of 10 save opportunities since the All-Star break while compiling a 7.89 ERA in those 20 games.

All of which bodes well for Derek Holland's chances of becoming the first pitcher to record double-digit wins in three consecutive years for the Rangers since Rick Helling did so from 1998-2001.

Holland (9-6, 3.02 ERA) turned in his best outing since a two-hit shutout over the New York Yankees on June 27, scattering four hits over eight innings in a 4-0 victory over Oakland. He did not allow a runner past second base, retiring 14 of 15 batters during one stretch.

"That's the best I've seen Holland pitch in quite a while," Athletics manager Bob Melvin said. "The inside zone was there for him, which made the changeup really tough to deal with."

The left-hander, who struck out 10, is tied for sixth in the American League with 145.

Holland's counterpart, Brad Peacock (1-4, 7.25), is also coming off a 10-strikeout performance. He had a successful return to the majors on Sunday, allowing three runs and four hits in a career-high seven innings of a 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

"He was able to keep guys on their toes," catcher Jason Castro said. "Obviously the strikeouts showed his stuff's definitely there. It's good to see. I was happy for him."

Peacock has shuttled between Houston and Triple-A Oklahoma City. He posted an 8.44 ERA in five starts for the Astros to begin the year and didn't earn another one until being recalled last weekend.

"He didn't do anything to hurt his chances, for sure," manager Bo Porter said. "When you come out and give that kind of performance, it definitely helps your chances of staying in the rotation."

One remnant of his previous struggles remained, however, as all three runs scored on two home runs. Peacock has allowed 10 homers in 36 innings this season.

Tagged: White Sox, Rangers, Astros, Alex Rios, Nelson Cruz, Derek Holland

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