Thanks to a five-game win streak, the Texas Rangers find themselves in a virtual tie for first place in the American League West as they clash with the Houston Astros in the second of a four-game series at Minute Maid Park.
Despite the distraction of losing Nelson Cruz to a 50-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis case, the Rangers have actually picked up momentum in recent weeks, winning 10 of their last 11 outings overall, thanks in part to a 9-5 victory last night in the series opener.
Adrian Beltre and Ian Kinsler both scored three runs for the visitors, with Joey Butler crossing the plate two times as well for Texas. Leonys Martin and Jurickson Profar were both credited with a pair of RBI for a Rangers squad that has one more win than the Oakland A's in the division.
Recently acquired Matt Garza recorded his second win as he permitted four runs on seven hits, striking out eight, through seven innings of action. Although he gave up one run on a couple of hits, Neal Cotts still registered his first save of the campaign.
"A great team win," Garza said of the effort. "I stayed around long enough to let the boys come back and pick me up. That was not the crispest fastball command, but I worked with (catcher A.J. Pierzynski) and got through it. I just grinded it out, and today I got to be the good boy. I could have been the bad boy, but I was the good guy."
In news off the field on Friday, the Rangers picked up Alex Rios from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations in order to help fill the void left by Cruz.
The Astros, who have dug the deepest hole of any team in the majors, have now dropped three straight games and are 2-8 in the last 10, leaving them 28 games out of contention in the division. The team with the fewest wins in baseball (37), Houston is a miserable 19-40 at home in 2013 and now has a run differential of a staggering minus-171 following last night's performance.
Erik Bedard made the start for the Astros, giving up three runs on seven hits and a pair of walks, striking out five, in 6 2/3 innings before giving way to a bevy of relievers. Josh Zeid was saddled with the loss as he was charged with two runs on one hit and one walk, retiring just a single batter.
"You want to be thrown into the fire," said Zeid. "You want to feel like you're ready; you want to feel like you're able to pitch in these games. It's always nice to get your feet wet any way you can. I feel like I belong. I feel like this whole team belongs. We just have to play better."
Brandon Barnes and Jason Castro both went deep for the hosts, the latter driving in two runs, while Jose Altuve notched three hits and also plated a pair in the setback.
Seeking just his second win of the 2013 campaign, the first since the second week of April, Brad Peacock settles in as the starting pitcher for the Astros tonight at home.
In just his second major league campaign, the right-hander is back up with the big club and making only his second appearance in the last two months. The most recent outing for the Florida native took place on Sunday at Minnesota when he made it through seven innings, giving up three runs on four hits and striking out a career-high 10 batters, but still Houston suffered the 3-2 setback.
Sporting a 0-2 record with a lofty 9.35 ERA in two games at home in 2013, Peacock is getting his first look at the Rangers tonight.
As for Texas, it has penciled in Derek Holland as its starter. An impressive 7-1 in 12 games on the road already this year, the left-hander managed to snap a two-game slide the last time out on Sunday by throwing eight shutout innings against Oakland at the Coliseum.
Holland allowed just four runs and walked two versus the A's, fanning 10 as he boosted his strikeout total to 145 over the course of 155 innings this season.
In terms of his experience against the Astros, Holland has a record of 1-1 with a 5.50 ERA in three appearances.
Texas is now 8-2 in the season series and has an impressive record of 22-6 against Houston since 2010. Dating back to 2009, the Rangers are 16-3 at Minute Maid Park.