Houston (24-19) at Texas (21-22)

Fair Currently: Arlington, TX
Temp: 85° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Sat May 17, 2008
  • TV: FSSW, FSSW
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Lance Berkman is off to an MVP-caliber start, but the Houston Astros have come to expect excellence from the four-time All-Star.

The Texas Rangers are quickly learning to expect the same from Josh Hamilton.

Hamilton, coming off a five-hit game that sparked the Rangers to a season-high 16 runs, will look to add to his major league RBI lead on Saturday when Texas continues its three-game interleague set with Berkman’s Astros in Arlington.

The No. 1 overall draft pick of Tampa Bay in 1999, Hamilton struggled with injuries and drug addiction before the Rays eventually cut ties with the talented but troubled outfielder in 2006.

After Hamilton reinvented his career last season with Cincinnati, the Reds dealt him to Texas for pitcher Edinson Volquez, who is leading the NL with a 1.12 ERA. But Hamilton has made sure the Rangers (21-22) don’t have any regrets about dealing one of the game’s best young starters.

He came into Friday’s interleague opener against the Astros (24-19) with an AL-best 44 RBIs, one more than Berkman, who came into the game leading the NL in that category.

Berkman had two hits but didn’t add to his 43 RBI. Hamilton did, however, going 5-for-5 with two homers and a career-high five RBIs as Texas—after giving up an early six-run lead—went on to rout Houston 16-8.

“This was a great night,” Hamilton told the team’s official Web site. “That’s why you play the game. It doesn’t happen all the time, it’s like the terrible golfer who gets the hole-in-one, and keeps you coming back. It was an awesome night.”

Hamilton is hitting .452 (14-for-31) with three homers and 13 RBIs over his last seven games, and the Rangers have gone 5-2 in that stretch to move to within one game of .500.

Berkman didn’t drive in a run on Friday, but he extended his hitting streak to 15 games. Berkman hasn’t just been collecting one hit per game during his streak, though. He’s gone 32-for 58 (.552) with seven homers and 20 RBIs— including a five-hit game—and the Astros have won 17 of their last 24 games to move into second place in the NL Central.

“Lance has had just an outstanding streak here,” manager Cecil Cooper told the Astros’ official Web site. “Hopefully it will continue—just an outstanding performance this year.”

Both Berkman and Hamilton may find hits more difficult to come by on Saturday. Houston will send ace Roy Oswalt (4-3, 5.05 ERA), who appears to have put his slow start behind him.

Oswalt is 4-0 with a 3.51 ERA since mid-April, and went a season-high eight innings in his last start, allowing three runs and five hits while striking out eight in a 7-3 win at San Francisco on Monday.

“It was a big win for us and for Roy,” Cooper said. “He hasn’t seen the eighth inning much.”

Oswalt is 1-3 with a 2.40 ERA in his last four starts at Rangers Ballpark.

The Rangers will counter Oswalt with Vicente Padilla (5-2, 3.23), who has allowed one or fewer earned runs in five of his nine starts. Padilla, however, struggled in his last outing, allowing six runs—three earned—in five innings on Monday, but didn’t pick up a decision as Texas beat Seattle 13-12.

Padilla is 1-3 with a 5.09 ERA in six career starts against Houston.

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Starting Pitchers

R. Oswalt Col vs. V. Padilla Bos
17-10 Record 14-8
3.54 ERA 4.74
165 K 127
47 BB 65
1.18 WHIP 1.46

Scoreboard

Saturday, May 17