The Texas Rangers have battered opposing pitching during a run back to the top of the AL West, while the Houston Astros' bullpen has taken its share of lumps through the club's latest lull.
Texas aims for its 10th victory in 11 games Friday night at Houston, where it has been dominant in recent years.In second place since July 2, the Rangers (65-50) now find themselves in a virtual tie for the division lead with Oakland after winning four in a row following this week's sweep of the Los Angeles Angels. They've scored 64 runs during the current 9-1 stretch while batting .300 -- .306 with runners in scoring position -- with 16 homers and 15 doubles.Texas had scored 36 runs while losing 12 of its previous 15."That's the place we were supposed to be," said Adrian Beltre, hitting .450 over his last 10 games with 12 RBIs. "I know Oakland's been playing well this season, but we assumed we would be there. We haven't won anything yet, but at least we're going in the right direction."The Rangers have won seven of the season's nine meetings against Houston, with Beltre going 13 for 29 with four homers in the most recent seven. They've also taken five straight and 15 of 18 in Houston dating back to 2009.The Astros (37-76) blew two saves against the Rangers earlier this year, a problem that has again haunted them more recently. Owners of the AL's worst save percentage at 54.8, Houston is 2 for 9 in save opportunities while going 4-15 since the All-Star break.Josh Fields surrendered a three-run homer in the ninth in a 7-5 home loss to Boston on Wednesday, marking the club's 19th blown save. Houston has converted one save since trading closer Jose Veras to Detroit on July 29.The Astros squandered 19 saves all of last season, while the club record is 26 in 2009."You put guys in situations where you feel they have the best opportunity to be successful, and tonight is another example of us just not getting it done," manager Bo Porter said.Houston was already dominated once by Matt Garza with the Cubs earlier this season, and they'll get another chance against him with Texas. Garza (7-2, 3.09 ERA) yielded one run and four hits through eight innings of Chicago's 3-1 win over Houston on June 21, improving to 2/3 in seven starts against the Astros with a 3.88 ERA.He had an eight-start unbeaten streak snapped his last time out despite his first complete game since 2011. Garza yielded three runs within his first 10 pitches in a 4-2 loss at Oakland on Saturday.The Astros counter with Erik Bedard (3-8, 4.29), looking to avoid losing six straight decisions for the first time in his career. However, he has a 2.82 ERA over his last four starts with 28 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings.The left-hander is 5-5 with a 3.51 ERA over 18 career outings versus Texas but is 1-4 in the last 12. He's given up seven runs in 11 1/3 innings against the Rangers this year, including a pair of homers to Beltre.One of them came in a 5-4 loss July 7, when A.J. Pierzynski had a three-run homer off Bedard and improved to 7 for 16 against him. Elvis Andrus, hitting .355 since the All-Star break, is just 3 for 18 with five strikeouts versus Bedard.Houston rookie outfielder Robbie Grossman is batting .472 during a 10-game hitting streak.Texas owns baseball's most intradivision wins with a 33-14 record against the AL West.
Alex Rios: 12 HR, 26 SB this season
Only 2 other players have at least that many homers and steals in 2013-- Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura.
But 2 other notes for Rios:
* Rios has a .263/.304/.330 batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage slashline in his last 49 games, with one home run in 194 at-bats.
* Rios enters with a nine-game hitting streak, during which he is hitting .324, but he only has one extra-base hit during this stretch.
* For those who think that Rios might find his power stroke in Rangers Ballpark, keep this in mind: In 161 at-bats there, he has only one home run.
Jason Castro's second-inning home run was calculated at 454 feet, the longest home run at Minute Maid Park this season. Castro now owns the two longest home runs in Houston this season, the other being a 444-foot home run off Jerome Williams on June 28.
Matt Garza has played well since being traded to the Rangers, especially at home. He is 1-0, 1.88 ERA in 2 starts in Arlington this season. In the same amount of starts, Garza is 1-1, 4.80 ERA on the road.