The Astros look to stay on the winning track as resume their three-game interleague series with the Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Craig Biggio had four hits, Adam Everett homered and every Houston starter had a hit and either scored or drove in a run as the Astros pounded the Rangers 12-3 Friday in the opener of the annual six-game battle for the Silver Boot.
Despite winning for just the third time in 10 games, the Astros are only a half game out of the NL Central lead. They are tied with St. Louis for second place after both the Cardinals and division-leading Chicago Cubs lost Friday.
“It’s about getting a win,” Biggio said. “You’re not scoreboard watching. You don’t really start paying attention to all of that until after the All-Star break.”
Alex Rodriguez homered and had an RBI double for the Rangers, who lost their fifth straight. Texas has dropped 17 of 19—its worst stretch since going 2-17 from Aug. 5-25, 1973.
“I’m going to keep grinding away. It’s a tough time for our team right now,” Rodriguez said. “When your backs are against the wall, you can either bow your head or lift it up and keep fighting.”
Rodriguez, playing a day after being hit in the face by a throw in Oakland, hit his 18th homer in the eighth, a solo shot that made it 5-3. His RBI double came in the first.
A loss in Saturday’s game would give the Rangers seven straight series losses.
Houston currently owns the Silver Boot, a crystal and silver trophy that goes to the series winner. The Astros took four of six from the Rangers last year.
The teams play a three-game set in Houston next weekend.
STANDINGS: Astros - 2nd place, 1/2 GB, NL Central. Rangers - 4th place, 20 1/2 GB, AL West.
ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Rodrigo Rosario (no record). The rookie right-hander will make his big league debut Saturday in place of Roy Oswalt, who was placed on the disabled list Tuesday, retroactive to June 12, after re-aggravating a right groin strain. Rosario, who has been in the Astros organization since 1996 when he was signed as a non-drafted free agent, was 5-7 with a 4.03 ERA over 15 starts for Triple-A New Orleans this season.
RANGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Ismael Valdes (6-2, 4.62 ERA). The veteran right-hander has been the lone bright spot in the Texas rotation this season. He is unbeaten in his last six starts, going 4-0 over that span. Valdes allowed two runs and six hits over six innings in a 13-2 victory over Florida last Saturday. Valdes has appeared in 12 games against the Astros in his career, 10 in a starting role, and is 2-4 with a 4.22 ERA.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Astros - Jeff Kent, .313 avg. and 50 RBIs; Morgan Ensberg, 13 HRs; Lance Berkman, 48 runs; Adam Everett, 6 SBs. Rangers - Hank Blalock, .332 avg.; Juan Gonzalez, 18 HRs and 50 RBIs; Carl Everett, 50 runs; Rodriguez, 7 SBs.
INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Astros - 8-5. Rangers - 2-11.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Astros - OF Biggio, who finished 4-for-5 Friday, was 10-for-20 against Texas last season. … OF Lance Berkman is 0-for-6 in his career against RHP Valdes. … OF Craig Biggio is 5-for-11 in his career against RHP Valdes. Rangers - Right-handed batters are hitting .333 against RHP Valdes this season. … RF Gonzalez missed his second straight game Friday because of tightness in his left groin. … Rookies LHPs Tony Mounce and Mario Ramos will likely start Monday and Tuesday as Houston continues to shuffle its rotation after the loss of Oswalt.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Astros - 16-20 on the road; Rangers - 16-19 at home.
INJURIES: Astros - LHP Carlos Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Brian Moehler (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Oswalt (groin), 15-day DL. Rangers - OF Gonzalez (groin), day-to-day. INF Herbert Perry (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Joaquin Benoit (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Chan Ho Park (oblique), 15-day DL; RHP Jeff Zimmerman (elbow), 60-day DL; OF Rusty Greer (neck), 60-day DL.