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Rangers-Astros Preview

AP - Sports

The AL West-leading Texas Rangers just held on to win their 10th consecutive series against the Houston Astros.

Given their history against Jordan Lyles, the Rangers could be in a great position to earn the sweep Sunday.

Since an 8-2 season-opening loss at Houston (10-27), Texas (23-13) has won four straight against the AL's newest team. The Rangers, winners of six of eight overall, improved to 23-6 in this series since 2009 with Saturday's 8-7 victory.

Texas scored six runs in the sixth and one in the seventh before the Astros rallied with three in the final two innings.

"We'll see what happens tomorrow," said right fielder Nelson Cruz, who homered for the second straight night. "Hopefully we can sweep the series."

The Rangers, now 12-5 against divisional foes, get their first look at Lyles (1-0, 4.50 ERA) since tagging the 22-year-old for five runs - three earned - in a 6-2 home win June 15.

Lyles has an 8.22 ERA while losing his last three starts versus Texas.

The right-hander, though, has pitched well in two starts since being called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City on May 2. Lyles has gone five innings each time, striking out 12 with three walks. He retired 14 of the last 17 he faced in Tuesday's 7-6 home win over the Los Angeles Angels.

"I threw the ball a little bit better tonight than I did last outing (a 7-3, 14-inning home loss to Detroit on May 2), just from the fact of being down, 3-0, and putting up some zeros against a pretty good offense to give our team chance to win," Lyles told the Astros' official website.

Manager Bo Porter pulled the plug on Lyles' last start after 82 pitches because he wants to ease him back into the rotation, but if the right-hander has it going Sunday, it could be difficult to take him out early again given the Astros' bullpen woes. Houston's relievers have a 9.82 ERA over the last three games.

Despite giving up a season-worst four runs Saturday, the Rangers' bullpen is one of the majors' best with a 3.06 ERA.

That won't mean much Sunday if scheduled starter Nick Tepesch (2-3, 4.50) has another rough outing. The rookie right-hander is 0-2 with an 8.44 ERA in two May starts - Texas has scored twice in both games - after walking a season-high four in Monday's 9-2 road loss to the Chicago Cubs.

Tepesch, who has yet to face Houston, could get a little more run support this time as the Rangers are averaging 5.8 runs and 10.3 hits during their winning streak over Houston.

Rangers DH/first baseman Lance Berkman is 7 for 14 during that stretch after going 1 for 2 with a homer Saturday. He's hit safely in 17 straight games in Houston, with the first three of that run coming while with the Astros.

Berkman has never faced Lyles.

Cruz and third baseman Adrian Beltre, who also homered Saturday, have 12 at-bats against the right-hander to lead Texas. Cruz has four hits, including a home run, while Beltre has three singles.

Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez went 2 for 4 with his first two-homer game Saturday. He was 1 for 10 in his previous three home games versus Texas.

The Rangers, winners of 14 of 17 in Houston, can record their first four-game win streak outside Arlington since June 10-20.

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