Rangers, Astros heading in opposite directions ahead of clash (Jun 02, 2017)

BY AP • June 2, 2017

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Some of the drama normally associated in a series between the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros will be missing when the teams begin a three-game set Friday at Globe Life Park.

The Astros have taken care of that with a blistering start that has them 12 games up on the Rangers in the American League West two months into the season. Houston is clicking on all cylinders heading into the opener and has its ace on the mound in left-hander Dallas Keuchel (8-0, 1.81 ERA).

Texas, which has lost eight of its last 11 games, will counter with its ace in right-hander Yu Darvish (5-3, 2.97 ERA) as the Rangers try to get something going against the team with the best record in baseball.

"Of course it's going to be very important for us," Darvish said. "If we can win against them in this series, it's going to give us momentum going forward. If they win, they keep the momentum that they've had. So this is a key series against Houston."

Darvish has had some success against Houston, going 4-4 with a 3.51 ERA in 12 career starts. Darvish hasn't faced the Astros yet this year and was winless in three starts against Houston in 2016.

"I'm looking forward to facing those guys," Darvish said. "Their young players are very talented, and they're playing so well as they're growing up. It's a really good lineup with those young guys."

Having Keuchel on the mound will help Houston, too. This will be the third Darvish vs. Keuchel matchup. Darvish hasn't won either game and Keuchel has one victory.

Keuchel has helped propel Houston to the best 54-game start in team history. He's unbeaten in his 10 starts and his eight-game winning streak is the longest by a Houston pitcher in a season since Roger Clemens had a nine-game streak in 2004. Dating back to last season, Keuchel has won 10 straight decisions, which is the fifth-longest streak in franchise history.

The Rangers have been tough on Keuchel. He's 5-7 with a 4.24 ERA in 18 career starts. But the last time he faced Texas, in 2016, he tossed a complete-game shutout.

Keuchel's unbeaten start is just one of the reasons the Astros are playing so well heading into the series against Texas.

The Astros lead the majors in batting average, runs scored and on-base percentage. They trail only the Washington Nationals in OPS and slugging.

Those are the kind of stats that have the Astros on the brink of another impressive number. A win Friday will move them 23 games over .500 for the first time since 2005, which just happens to be the only time the Astros have been to the World Series.

"Our wins are piling up there," Houston manager A.J. Hinch told MLB.com. "We had an incredible month. That comes from a team that's full of guys that are contributing on a nightly basis. It's somebody different every night, and that's great."



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