Texas tussle: Rangers pay a visit to Astros

The Texas Rangers own the best record in the American League. That mark could improve on Friday when they open a three-game series against the hapless Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Texas improved to 21-13 on Wednesday, as Ian Kinsler and Mitch Moreland each hit a solo homer, with Moreland driving in two runs to help the Rangers get past the Milwaukee Brewers, 4-1.

Derek Holland (3-2) allowed just one run on 10 hits over seven innings for the Rangers, who evened the series and have won four of their last six games. Joe Nathan notched his ninth save with a scoreless ninth.

"Derek did what he had to do," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "His changeup has been big, he added it to his repertoire. He scattered the hits well and made pitches when he needed to."

Getting the call for the Rangers on Friday will be righty Alexi Ogando, who is 3-2 with a 3.08 ERA. Ogando won for the first time in five starts on Saturday, as he beat Boston, holding it to a run and six hits in six innings.

Ogando struck out 10 Astros over 6 1/3 scoreless innings back on April 3 and has pitched to a 0.96 ERA in three appearances (1 start) against them.

While Texas sits at the top of the AL standings, Houston's 10-25 mark is the worst in all of baseball. However, the Astros enter this set on the heels of a series win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but they were denied a sweep with a 6-5 setback on Thursday.

Matt Dominguez collected three RBI in the loss, while Brandon Barnes and Chris Carter each knocked in a run for the Astros, who have lost seven of their last nine games.

Hector Ambriz (0-2) absorbed the loss after giving up three runs in the eighth.

heading to the hill for the Astros on Friday will be lefty Dallas Keuchel, who will be making his first start of the year after six relief appearances. Keuchel went 3-8 with a 5.27 ERA in 16 starts last season

"I'm a starter at heart," said Keuchel, who is 0-1 with a 4.96 ERA this season. "If my role is in the bullpen, then it's in the bullpen. I'm going to try to pitch to the best of my ability. Friday is going to be no different."

Texas took two of three from the Astros to open the year. In fact, the Rangers have won nine straight series from Houston since dropping two of three at Minute Maid Park from June 24-26, 2008.