Astros-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

Derek Holland will take aim at Rick Helling's mark once again.

The left-hander seeks to become the first pitcher to record double-digit wins for the Rangers in three consecutive seasons since Helling did so from 1998-2001 when Texas hosts the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.

Holland (9-6, 2.95 ERA) held the opposition scoreless for the second time in three starts Friday, limiting Seattle to two hits in seven innings before leaving without a decision in a 3-1 loss.

The Astros, who reached the left-hander for three runs in six innings on August 10, are the only team to score off Holland over his last three starts. He has allowed three-plus runs in all four of his starts against the Astros, posting a 5.25 ERA in those games.

Holland's third attempt at 10 wins could be fueled by a clutch Texas offense. The Rangers (73-53), leading the AL West by a game and a half, have won 17 of 21 behind a lineup that is batting .304 with runners in scoring position during that span.

"Every game means something from here on out," Holland told the team's official website. "We're in a close race with Oakland. We need to gain ground and win as many games as we can."

Adrian Beltre, who belted the go-ahead two-run homer in Texas' 4-2 victory Tuesday, is batting .373 against Houston this season, with 11 of his 22 hits going for extra bases.

"This is what I'm supposed to be doing, right?" Beltre said. "I've been feeling better lately. Definitely."

He is 33 for 77 (.429) with 20 RBIs and 16 runs scored over the Rangers' current streak. He is one shy of Miguel Cabrera for the major league lead in hits.

"The only way I can really describe it, he's the MVP," Ian Kinsler said. "He's having an MVP-caliber season."

Beltre's power has been complemented by plenty of speed, as Texas leads the majors with 29 stolen bases in August. Elvis Andrus leads baseball with nine this month, while Leonys Martin and Alex Rios have seven apiece.

Tuesday's win was the Rangers' 13th in 14 games against the Astros since an opening-night loss.

Texas, which put former Houston reliever Travis Blackley on the hill Tuesday night, will face another potential target Wednesday in Erik Bedard.

Bedard (3-9, 4.49), a 34-year-old left-hander, doesn't quite fit in on Houston's youth-dominated roster. Rumors have circulated about Texas acquiring a pitcher, particularly since Alexi Ogando went on the disabled list Tuesday for the third time this season.

"I am comfortable with what we've got," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "You are always looking around, but I don't anticipate anything."

Bedard, for his part, would simply like to pick up his first win since June 26. The Astros (41-84) have lost his last eight starts, due in no small part to the paltry 14 runs they have provided him with.

Bedard has lost a career-worst six consecutive decisions, walking 27 over his last 45 1-3 innings. He walked four-plus batters for the fourth time in eight starts Thursday, allowing five runs in a 5-0 loss at Oakland.

Bedard went 4-1 with a 2.50 ERA against Texas through 2007, but is 1-4 with a 4.13 ERA since. Beltre has two home runs off him this year but is 5 for 27 (.185) overall.

Houston catcher Max Stassi had two hits in his major league debut Tuesday. Stassi is filling in for Carlos Corporan, who was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list Tuesday.

Teammate Matt Dominguez is 10 for his last 22 with three home runs, including a two-run shot Tuesday.

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