The Lone Star Series between the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros will commence this weekend, starting with tonight's opener of a three- game set at Minute Maid Park.
The Silver Boot will be up for grabs between the two Texas combatants with the Rangers aiming for bragging rights in a fourth consecutive year. The Rangers went 4-2 against the Astros last season and are 14-4 in the past 18 matchups in the series. Texas also has won eight of nine in Space City and is 37-29 overall in the Lone Star Series.
Texas currently leads the AL West by four games over Oakland, but went 3-4 on a recent homestand. It split a two-game series with the Athletics and suffered a 5-4 loss in 10 innings on Thursday, as Kila Ka'aihue singled home Jonny Gomes in the top of the 10th inning for the game-winning run. Rangers reliever Mike Adams was dealt the loss and starter Matt Harrison allowed three runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings of work.
"I wouldn't call it frustrating," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "It's a tough loss. It's not frustrating because we still have a lot of games on the schedule. You can't get frustrated about one game, because that frustration ends up snowballing."
Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton got the day off until a pinch-hitting role in the eighth inning and had his 16-game hitting streak come to an end. Hamilton went 0-for-2 and was riding the longest hit streak of his career since a 23- game run back in June 2010.
"It allows you to be stress-free for a few innings," Hamilton said. "Not really having to think about the game, but just out there supporting your teammates and encouraging them. If we have a day off, about the sixth inning, I'm still getting ready. In about the sixth inning, I went to the cage, and I was ready to go."
Washington's club, which will visit Seattle as well on this road trip, is scheduled to send Neftali Feliz to the mound Friday. Feliz has won two straight starts and is 3-1 with a 3.32 ERA in seven games (6 starts) this season. He last toed the rubber in a 13-6 win over the LA Angels on Sunday, as he held the Halos to a pair of runs and four hits in six innings.
Feliz is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in six relief appearances against the Astros.
Houston will resume an eight-game homestand tonight and swept Milwaukee in two games to kick off the residency. In Thursday's 4-0 victory, starting pitcher J.A. Happ evened his 2012 mark at 3-3 with six shutout innings, four strikeouts and one walk.
"I'm just trying to be aggressive and throw strikes," said Happ. "With the pitches that I miss and that they get on, the guys behind me do a great job."
Jed Lowrie hit a two-run homer and both Chris Snyder and Jordan Schafer added RBI singles for the Astros, whose two-game winning streak comes on the heels of a four-game slide.
The Astros are slated to host the NL Central-rival Cubs on the homestand and hope Wandy Rodriguez can pitch the ballclub past Texas tonight. Rodriguez hopes to follow up Happ's performance with a stellar showing of his own. Since a personal three-game win streak from April 22-May 2, Rodriguez is 0-1 in two trips to the mound and did not record a decision in a 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday. He threw eight innings of one-run ball, struck out seven batters and issued one walk.
Rodriguez is 3-3 in eight starts to go along with a 1.99 earned run average this season, and is 4-2 with a 5.13 ERA in six career starts against Texas.
Houston will don its 1965 uniforms for tonight's series opener with the Rangers. Former Astros legend and current Rangers president Nolan Ryan will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Texas owns a 135-131 mark in interleague play and Houston is 107-123 against the American League.