The Astros look to take advantage of the slumping Rangers as the intrastate rivals both try to get back on track in the opener of a three-game interleague series at Minute Maid Park on Friday.
Houston (20-20) had won seven of its last nine games before it matched a season low with three hits in a 2-1, 12-inning loss to San Francisco on Thursday.
Before the defeat, the Astros were batting .292 and had outscored opponents 23-12 during a four-game win streak.
Rookie center fielder Hunter Pence went 1-for-4 on Thursday after going 7-for-7 in the first two games of the series. After striking out in the second inning, he finished one hit shy of Art Howe’s team record for consecutive hits.
“I’m afraid we’re going to get in a frenzy here, and the expectations are going to be unattainable,” manager Phil Garner told the Astros’ official Web site. “The kid’s playing good. Just let him play.”
The Rangers (15-26) also suffered an extra-inning defeat on Thursday, losing 8-6 to Tampa Bay in 10 innings for their fourth straight loss and eighth in 10 games. Texas has given up at least six runs eight times in those 10 games, raising the team’s ERA to 5.24—second-worst in the majors.
“They’re doing a lot of good things,” manager Ron Washington told the Rangers’ official Web site. “We’re just missing that one hit, that one pitch, that one play. I’m not giving up until this season is over. I do believe that at some point we are going to get on a roll.”
Mark Teixeira went 2-for-2 with three RBIs on Thursday, and has 17 RBIs in his last 14 games after opening the season with six in his first 27. The first baseman is 12-for-35 (.343) with three home runs and eight RBIs in 10 career games at Minute Maid Park.
Robinson Tejeda (3-3, 4.87 ERA) will make his first start since May 9, when he left after 3 2-3 innings with soreness in his pitching arm. He allowed each of the first five New York Yankees batters he faced to reach base, and the first four scored as Tejeda was reached for six runs in the Rangers’ 6-2 defeat.
It was Tejeda’s second consecutive loss, but the right-hander has never lost three straight outings.
After a successful bullpen session on Wednesday, Tejeda has been cleared to start.
“It was a good bullpen (session),” Tejeda said. “There wasn’t anything that was bothering me. I thought it would take a little more time, but I’m very excited about this. I’m back.”
In his lone start against the Astros, Tejeda held them to one run and two hits in five innings, but failed to factor in the decision in the Rangers’ 5-3 loss on May 19, 2006.
Rangers third baseman Hank Blalock is questionable with what has been described as a knot behind his right shoulder. He will be examined in Dallas on Friday and rejoin the team prior to the game.
Outfielder Jerry Hairston Jr. is not likely to play due to a pinched nerve in his neck, and the team may put him on the disabled list.
Houston will start Matt Albers (1-2, 5.47), who looks to rebound from his worst outing of the year. He earned his first major league win with 7 1-3 shutout innings against St. Louis on May 5, but gave up seven runs in three innings in the Astros’ 9-5 loss to Cincinnati on May 10.
Albers has never faced the Rangers, and has never pitched in an interleague game.
The Astros won four of six meetings between these teams last season, including two of three at home. They have a 20-16 edge in the all-time series.
Each team finished with a 7-11 interleague record in 2006.
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