AL West Series Preview: Astros vs. Rangers, May 12-14, 2014

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros face their in-state rivals, this time 100% Yu free.

Houston Astros (12-16) vs. Arlington Rangers (19-19)

TV: CSN Houston, MLB.TV
Radio: KBME 790 AM, KLAT 1010 AM
Rangers SBNation Blog: Lone Star Ball

Ah yes, it's time once again for another chapter in the forced rivalry of the Astros and Rangers. Houston has not yet to make any strides towards a real rivalry in it's short time in the American League, it's more like a group project where one person is doing all the work. The Rangers are not hitting on all cylinders, losing six of their last ten games. That's just one better the Astros over the same stretch. But, I'm sure Rangers players and fans expect to get right on track with a few games against the Astros. Can Houston stop playing the punching bag for Arlington?

Fighting to stay afloat...

The Rangers were hit hard (if not the hardest) in offseason by the injury bug. Arlington's rotation was hit the hardest, resulting in pitchers like Joe Saunders, Nick Martinez, Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross Jr., and Martin Perez to getting a shot at starting. The majority have been successful during points this season, but a few have been disaster at times as well. The Rangers are still without Jurickson Profar, their starting second baseman. Early season bright spot, Kevin Kouzmanoff, has also joined the disabled-list with a back injury. The Ranger will be happy to have a winning record when June and July come around and they get back to full strength.

Taking a look over the Rangers last seven games, Elvis Andrus has been the Rangers hottest hitter. He hitting .423 (11-26) with four doubles during that stretch. Outside of that the Rangers' lineup has been a bit sluggish. Shin-Soo Choo has an on-base percentage of .400 in 25 at-bats and has 10 strikeouts during that time. Adrian Beltre 5-for-27 with a double and three RBIs - he has also has nine strikeouts. Prince Fielder just hasn't looked like his old self yet in Arlington, he has just two hits in his last 23 at-bats with home run, four walks, and five strikeouts.

There is a spark here and there...

The Astros offense has shown some life this past week, and done enough to win more than three games. Houston has been unable to put together all three phases of the game to translate to wins. Over the games last six games, Jose Altuve and Matt Dominguez has lead the way for the Astros offense. Dominguez is batting .321 (9-28) with two doubles and home run. Jose Altuve is batting .286 (8-28) with three doubles and two stolen bases.

George Springer appears to begun to turn the corner, going 8-for-28 with four extra-base hits (but 13 strikeouts yeash!). Jason Castro hit the key three-run homer in Baltimore on Sunday to propel the Astros to a 5-2 win. Jonathan Villar and Alex Presley have come back down to earth a bit this week, they are batting .136 (3-22) and .125 (2-16) respectfully.

Pitching Matchups

RHP Brad Peacock (0-3, 5.01 ERA, 1.73 WHIP) vs. RHP Colby Lewis (2-2, 6.12 ERA, 1.72 WHIP)

Colby Lewis coming off a start where he gave up more hits (12) then outs he recorded (11) against Colorado. It was the first time Lewis wasn't able to go a full five inning this season (3.2, 7 ER vs. COL). That Lewis will be happy to see the Astros I'm sure, he is 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA in his career against Houston. At The Juice Box, he is 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA in five games (three starts).

Lewis had kept the majority of the Astros lineup in check in his career - Chris Carter and Jason Castro are a collective 0-for-8 in their careers against the Rangers' right-hander. Jose Altuve (2-for-7) and Carlos Corporan (1-for-2) each have a double against Lewis. Dexter Fowler checks in with a hit in two career at-bats against Lewis.

#FreeTheP is in full effect. Brad Peacock has returned to the rotation, and looked to be on the chopping block with Scott Feldman returned from the Disabled-List. The cutting did not come to pass, Brett Oberholtzer was sent down instead of Peacock or Collin McHugh. Peacock has had back-to-back quality starts in his most recent outings, against the Mariners and Tigers. He held the Tigers' high-powered offense to two runs over 6.2 innings on May 7 - both runs coming by way of solo home runs from Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera. Who doesn't give up a home run to Miguel Cabrera?

Brad Peacock has been masterful in his career against  the Rangers, the current roster has a career batting average of .238 (10-42) against the righty. Elvis Andrus, Prince Fielder, and Mitch Moreland are a collective 0-for-14 against Peacock. Adrian Beltre is 1-for-4 with a home run. Shin-Soo Choo is 2-for-3, and Leonys Martin is 2-for-4 against Peacock.

LHP Dallas Keuchel (3-2, 3.68 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) vs. RHP Matt Harrison (0-1, 2.87 ERA, 1.60 WHIP)
Matt Harrison has made three starts since his return from the disabled list in late April. Harrison had three surgeries for his back and shoulder since his last start on April 6, 2013. The 2013 Opening Day starter for the Rangers has been just what the doctor ordered for Alrington this season, giving up just five runs over 15.1 innings. He is coming off 5.1 innings of scoreless baseball against Colorado, where he walked four and striking out two.
Chris Carter (0-10), Jason Castro (0-3), and (0-2) Matt Dominguez have yet to get a hit off Harrison in their Careers. Joe Altuve is 2-for-3, and Dexter Fowler is 1-for-1.

Dallas Keuchel has been the workhorse the Astros rotation thus far in the 2014 season. He is coming off arguably his strongest outing of the season, holding the Tigers to two runs over 7.2 with zero walks and seven strikeouts. He has posted five quality starts in seven chances this season.

As a team, the Rangers are batting .217 against Keuchel. Adrian Beltre has hit the Astros' left-hander hard in his career, going 4-for-15 with two doubles. Alex Rios is 3-for-9 with a double. Prince Fielder is 0-for-5 in his career against Keuchel.

RHP Scott Feldman (2-1, 1.93 ERA, 0.92 WHIP ) vs. RHP Nick Tepesch (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

The Astros will miss Yu Darvish as he will be pushed back to start Arlington's next series, following his 126 pitch effort against Boston. Martin Perez has been stretched from his scheduled start for elbow discomfort and Nick Tepesch will start in his place. He was 4-6, 4.84 ERA in 19 games (17 starts) with the Rangers last season. He is 5-1 with 1.58 ERA in seven starts with Triple-A Round Rock.

Jose Altuve and Jason Castro are both 3-for-6 against Tepesch in their careers, Castro had a double and home run. Chris Carter is 1-for-5 with a double and walk. Matt Dominguez is 1-for-4.

Former Ranger, Scott Feldman will make his second start against Arlington this season. He pitched with a heavy heart in his first outing, pitching seven scoreless innings after the loss of his father. Feldman would head to the bereavement list and the disabled list one start later. He turned from the disabled list in Baltimore, another former team, and posted a quality start. He allowed two runs over six innings - walking zero and striking out six.

Feldman has kept the majority of the Rangers' lineup in check his career, expect Alex Rios. Rios is batting .289 (11-38) with four doubles and two home runs. Elvis Andrus is two-for-nine, Adrian Beltre is 4-for-21 with a double and home run. Prince Fielder is 1-for-8 with a home run. Shin-Soo Choo is 1-for-14 with three (THREE?!) strikeouts.

Prediction

The Astros have looked much better this week minus the bullpen. The Astros will get their first series win against the Rangers since they joined the American League, and first series win against the Rangers at Minute Maid Park since 2008. The Dallas metroplex will have a small crisis as Keuchel and Feldman do enough to help the Astros win two games. I can see the headlines now - "What's wrong with the Rangers?"

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