Series Preview: Astros at Rangers, April 11-13, 2014

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Astros head back to Texas after quick trip north of the border.

Facing the Rangers last season was similar to jumping out of a trench and seeing a Gatling gun waiting for you on the other side of the battlefield if you were an Astros player. For all of Houston's efforts, they were mowed down to the tune of a 17-2 record against the Rangers last season. It's hard to believe the Rangers were that much extraordinary better then the Astros, but Houston didn't help itself with constant missteps through the season. The Astros have brought back a familiar face for Rangers fans, Scott Feldman. Feldman anchors a rotation that hopes to turn the tide in this year's edition of the battle for the Silver Boot.

Astros' Offense Goes Boom

The Astros are currently tied for second in the major leagues for home runs with 14. Jason Castro, Matt Dominguez, Jesus Guzman, Alex Presley, and Jonathan Villar all have two home runs in this young season. It has been the main offensive weapon thus far in 2014, because they are currently second-to-last in batting average with runners in scoring position at .138. Jose Altuve, the Astros' pint size cleanup hitter, leads the team with 11 hits and is tied with Jonathan Villar for team lead in RBIs (5), and stolen bases (3).

The Astros' eight and nine hitter each went yard in Thursday's game against the Blue Jay, Robbie Grossman and Villar may have found their way out of their early season funk. Dexter Fowler returned to the lineup in Canada, after a few days with a stomach virus. He went 2-for-8 with a run scored in his two starts back.

Matt Albers returns to the Astros after the birth of his son the past week.

Rangers Hope to Keep Winning Ways Against the Astros

Since 2009, the Rangers have been 36-7 against their neighbors to the south. For the all additions this offseason the Rangers made, they have more questions than answers thus far in 2014. The Rangers were ravaged by injury during Spring Training. Losing multiple starters and starting second baseman Jurickson Profar. To top that off, Adrian Beltre went home to Texas earlier this week to have his left quad muscle checked out. The Rangers have already called up Kevin Kouzmanoff to play third in Friday's game.

Alex Rios has continued his hot finish in 2013, batting .364 (12-33) with six runs batted in in 2014. Elvis Andrus (.306 OBP) and Shin-Soo Choo (.475 OBP) have gotten on base at the top of the lineup. Prince Fielder has struggled thus far in 2014 (.162 6-37, 2 2B), and his bat speed  appears to have slowed. But, that's nothing a little Astros pitching can't fix.

Pitching Matchups

Scott Feldman (2-0, 0.66 ERA, 0.66 WHIP) vs. Yu Darvish (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)

Scott Feldman returned to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington Globe Life Park, where he spent the first eight years of his career. He has made 101 career appearances (51 starts) in Arlington, posting a 4.40 ERA, 1.366 WHIP, and 1.48 SO/BB. Will he have some insight to impart with the rest of the pitching staff?

Feldman has pitched like number one starter in his first two outings - allowing one earned run over 13.2 innings.

Feldman has kept the Rangers lineup in check for the majority of his career, Choo (1-for-13), (Beltre 4-21), and Moreland (1-for-5). Alex Rios is the one exception, he is 11-for-35 with six extra base hits and five runs batted in.

The Astros are tempting fate each time they face Yu Darvish, twice last season he just missed throwing a no hitter against the Astros. In his career, Darvish is 4-1 against the Astros with a 2.72 ERA and 4.5 strikeout to walk ratio. He is coming off seven scoreless innings against the Rays, scattering seven hits and striking out six.

Darvish will not face the two men that broke up his two masterful efforts against the Astros last season, Marwin Gonzalez and Carlos Corporan. He will face Marc Krauss who is 3-for-8 and walk against Darvish. Matt Dominguez is only 3-for-11 but all three hits have left the yard against the Japanese import. Chris Carter, Robbie Grossman, and Jonathan Villar are all hitless against Darvish in 4+ at-bats.

Jarred Cosart (1-1, 4.09 ERA, 1.00 WHIP) vs. Tanner Scheppers (0-1, 9.00 ERA, 2.33 WHIP)

I should copy and paste this into each preview with Cosart, the Astros will win the game if he keeps his electric stuff under control. A perfect example of this is Cosart's last two starts - five scoreless innings with zero walks in a win against the Yankees on April 2. Four walks and five earned runs in a loss to the Angels on April 7. On August 20 2013, Cosart made his lone start against the Rangers - allowing three runs on four hits and three walks.

In this one start, Adrian Beltre did  Beltre-like things, collecting a double and home run in three at-bats. Alex Rios was the only other Ranger to get a hit off Cosart. Elvis Andrus picked up one of the three walks in the game.

Tanner Scheppers was a key cog in the Rangers bullpen last season, injuries have pushed him to the rotation. So far he has struggled, allowing nine runs on 17 hits and four walks. The Phillies shelled him in his first start for seven runs in just four innings work. In second start, he weathered nine hits but allowed only two runs over five innings. Scheppers has been living dangerously, it's not summer yet but Rangers Ballpark Globe Life Park is still a launching pad. Something that might play into the homer-happy Astros' hands.

Jose Altuve(3-7), Chris Carter (2-6, HR), and Robbie Grossman (2-2) are the only Astros with any success against Scheppers.

Brett Oberholtzer (0-2, 4.91 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) vs. Martin Perez (1-0, 4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)

Brett Oberholtzer has yet record a quality start for the Astros this season. He has failed to reach the end of the six inning, while allowing three runs in both games. The left-hander has been the personification of average thus far. That said, it's not hard to keep the faith with Obe'. The season is young and he will find the form that saw him record a 2.24 ERA in 64.1 innings as a starter last year.

Adrian Beltre has had his way with Obe', going 3-for-4 with a double. Mitch Moreland has also accounted for a double against the big lefty in two-at-bats.

Martin Perez isn't a fireballer, he will keep the ball on the ground for the most part. He will be just what the doctor ordered if he can keep his rotation spot in 2014. Perez has struck out 10 batters in 12 innings of work thus far in 2014. That's the good part. Now the bad part, he allowed six earned runs on 15 hits and three walks in those starts.

Jose Altuve and Chris Carter hit Perez hard in the past. Two of the three hits Altuve has collected has gone for doubles. While Carter has burned the lefty for six hits in 11 at-bats, including two home runs.

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