Astros-Rangers pregame

The Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It has taken two starts for Texas left-hander Derek Holland to show he's back to pitching like the Texas Rangers hoped he would when the season started.

Holland (6-6), who missed two months of the season with left shoulder inflammation, wants to continue that trend Saturday when he starts a pivotal game against Houston. Unlike the Rangers, who have been set with their rotation, the Astros didn't announce their starter for Saturday until Friday afternoon.

Houston's decision to push left-hander Dallas Keuchel back out of the series because of fatigue means rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove (2-2) will get the start opposite Holland.

The Astros would love for Musgrove to have a Holland-like impact as Friday night's 10-8 loss to the Rangers dropped Houston 9 1/2 games behind Texas. In his two stars since returning from the disabled list, Holland has been consistently good. In each start, he has pitched six innings and allowed one run.

About the only person not making too much about his recent starts is Holland.

"I'm just going to stay focused on who I am," Holland said. "I'm not going to let two starts dictate anything. It's definitely great to see, and I've been working my butt off for this, but at the same time I want to continue to focus on what's ahead."

What's ahead could be another start in which Holland throws his fastball in the low 90s, which is down from where he was a couple of years ago. But Holland is learning to pitch with what he has, which is something he picked up from Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.

Maddux was a special assistant with the Rangers last year and won more than 300 games without overpowering hitters.

"That's one thing he (Maddux) used to talk about," said Holland, who is 4-2 with a 4.31 ERA in 11 career starts vs. the Astros. "It's not necessarily how hard you throw, but how you locate. Everything is working outstanding. Nothing is taking the same path, including my off-speed. We throw the same exact curveball the next pitch and it does not go the same route the other one did."

Musgrove is capable of matching Holland. His first big-league start came against the Rangers and he dazzled, allowing one run in seven innings and striking out six. He's coming off another solid outing in his last start, as he picked up his second win on Monday. He didn't allow a run in 5 1/3 innings against Oakland and struck out seven.

With Houston clinging to faint American League West hopes against first-place Texas and the rotation in flux because of Keuchel, that puts a lot of pressure on Musgrove to perform.

Manager A.J. Hinch has confidence that his young rotation is up to the challenge and knows they can't rely on Keuchel to carry the load.

"I've got four other guys we have to prepare to pitch and having this anxiousness or this curiosity everyday as to whether Keuchel was going to get back into the rotation doesn't do these guys any favors," Hinch said. "They need to be ready to pitch and map out their bullpen schedules and their routines."

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