Astros-Rangers Preview

The Texas Rangers have won six straight over the Houston Astros,

and Yu Darvish has been difficult to hit in beating them twice in

that span.

Darvish ended his lengthy winless streak his last time out and

will look to continue dominating the Astros on Saturday night.

Texas (50-36) won Friday’s opener of this three-game set 10-5

and has not lost to Houston (31-56) since an 8-2 defeat March 31 in

the Astros’ first game as an AL club.

Darvish (8-3, 2.78 ERA) fell one out short of a perfect game in

the next meeting, a 14-strikeout performance in a 7-0 victory April

2 that started the Rangers’ run over the Astros. He followed that

up by yielding three runs and three hits over seven innings to earn

an 8-7 win over Houston on May 11.

The right-hander is limiting opponents to an AL-best .190

average, and Houston is hitting .078 against him this year. Darvish

gave up two runs over eight innings of a 6-2 home win over Houston

last June 15, and he’s struck out 33 Astros in 23 2-3 career

innings.

Houston regulars Jose Altuve, Jason Castro and Carlos Pena have

combined to go 1 for 26 against Darvish. Castro, though, feels the

Astros won’t be intimidated.

“We’re comfortable now, I think, with the way he likes to pitch

and the way he goes about attacking hitters,” Castro told the

team’s official website. “We kind of learned and made some

adjustments based on that first time we saw him.”

Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez became the only player to

homer twice against Darvish in one game in May.

Houston has struck out a major league-high 808 times, while

Darvish leads baseball with 151.

Darvish had been 0-2 with a 2.93 ERA in seven starts before

pitching 6 2-3 scoreless innings to earn a 3-2 victory over

Cincinnati on Sunday. The Rangers had dropped his previous four

outings.

“As a starter, if the team doesn’t win the day that you pitch,

that can be really frustrated, so that was my thing,” Darvish said

through his translator.

Nelson Cruz hit a grand slam and Adrian Beltre and David Murphy

also homered as Texas cruised Friday after building a 10-0

advantage through five innings.

Cruz has a 12-game hitting streak against the Astros, going 17

for 50 (.340) with 16 RBIs. He’s homered in the last three

meetings.

The Astros outhit the Rangers 10-9 in the series opener but went

5 for 17 with runners in scoring position in their seventh loss in

eight games.

“The effort and focus is definitely there,” Astros manager Bo

Porter said. “That goes without question with these guys. It’s one

of those things we’ve played good teams that have played well and

we have not played our best baseball.”

Texas is 16-10 against left-handed starters as it faces Dallas

Keuchel (4-5, 4.65), who is 0-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two career

starts versus the Rangers.

Cruz is the only Rangers player to homer against Keuchel, who

owns a 3.03 road ERA compared to 5.62 at home.