Rangers eye fast start to second half against Astros

Prior to Texas opening the second half of the regular season with a shutout victory over the division-leading Houston Astros, first-year Rangers manager Chris Woodward spoke of shifting expectations for his club, one surprisingly in contention in what was pegged a rebuilding season.

Woodward intently focused on how the Rangers would adapt to potential roster changes with the trade deadline approaching at the close of this month, a reality that continues to take form with every win.

Texas blanked the Astros 5-0 on Thursday at Globe Life Park in the opener of a four-game series between American League West rivals, a triumph that kept the Rangers on the periphery of the AL wild-card chase and, by proxy, in the mix to acquire talent before August.

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Starting the second half with a bang set the stage for Texas to maintain momentum.

"It's just one game obviously, but it is important," Woodward said. "It kind of sets the tone for the rest of them hopefully. It is just one game though. Obviously, we preach stuff that will hopefully continue to give us long-term success.

"We have a tough schedule, there's no way around it. July is not going to be easy. But if we come out, start off the way that we did ... we're going to give ourselves a lot of chances to win games. It is important. I was hoping we would set the tone for the second half with a good win."

Right-hander Jesse Chavez (3-4, 3.30 ERA) will start for the Rangers on Friday. It will mark his eighth start this season and fourth in succession, with Chavez going 1-2 with a 3.63 ERA over his previous three appearances.

He has made 30 appearances out of the bullpen this season, two against the Astros, against whom he is 3-2 with a 3.63 ERA over 33 career appearances (nine starts). Chavez has posted a 7.20 ERA against the Astros over three outings this season.

Right-hander Gerrit Cole (9-5, 3.09) will start opposite Chavez for the Astros. He is 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA over his last eight starts, compiling 70 strikeouts over 51 innings during that span.

Cole is 4-2 with a 3.72 ERA over eight career starts against the Rangers with 78 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings. However, he is 1-2 with a 6.61 ERA over three starts against Texas this season.

The Astros endured a scare in the series opener when All-Star shortstop Alex Bregman departed with a lacerated chin after taking a bad-hop grounder to the face in the third inning. Houston has been ravaged by injuries to its star-laden core, with Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer missing a combined 106 games in the first half. Bregman was the exception, playing in 88 of the Astros' 90 games prior to the All-Star break earlier this week.

Bregman underwent further evaluation following the game.

"Sounds like he got four stitches in his chin," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He was bleeding when I got out there; took a really nasty hop for him. We'll see how he is."

--Field Level Media

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