Though Texas won't have its star slugger this weekend, Yu Darvish gives the Rangers a good shot to continue their dominance of the Houston Astros.
Ex-Ranger Scott Feldman, however, has pitched well enough for the Astros to have a legitimate chance at ending those struggles in his return to Arlington.Minus the injured Adrian Beltre, Darvish and the Rangers look for a 12th consecutive victory over the visiting Astros on Friday night.Texas (4-5) has had little trouble with its in-state rival in recent years, winning 36 of the last 43 meetings. The Rangers went 17-2 against Houston last season -- the Astros' first in the AL. Houston (4-6) beat Texas 8-2 to open the season, then Darvish came within an out of tossing a perfect game two nights later in a 7-0 victory.Darvish (1-0, 0.00 ERA), who also took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of a 2-1 win at Houston on Aug. 12, is 4-1 with a 2.72 ERA in six career starts against the Astros. However, he's 1-1 with a 4.19 ERA in three at home.The right-hander makes his home debut after he allowed seven hits, struck out six and walked one in seven innings of a 3-0 win at Tampa Bay on Sunday that followed his bout with neck stiffness."He was in control of the game," manager Ron Washington said. "He was using his pitches. He was throwing strikes. And that's what he does."Though Texas has outscored the Astros 52-20 during a seven-game home win streak, it won't take anything for granted against a club that took two of three from the New York Yankees and ended a three-game slide with a 6-4 win at Toronto on Thursday."They're a better team," Washington told the Rangers' official website. "The mistakes they might have made (while losing 111 games) last year, they won't make as many this season. They are not going to be anybody's doormat. You've got to bring your best game."The Rangers will attempt to bring theirs without Beltre, who has a mild left quadriceps strain but has yet to be placed on the DL. He's hitting .286 with no homers and four RBIs in eight games."We're going to kind of play it conservatively. We're going to give him a few days," Texas general manager Jon Daniels said.The Rangers can likely rely on Alex Rios to pick up some of the offensive slack. The veteran outfielder is batting .364 with a homer and six RBIs, hitting safely in the first eight games before going 0 for 4 in Wednesday's 4-2 loss at Boston.He's batting .314 (11 for 35) with two homers and four doubles against Feldman (2-0, 0.66), who has allowed one run and five hits in 13 2/3 innings of his first two starts as an Astro. The right-hander gave up that run and three hits in seven innings of a 7-4 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday."He's been outstanding," Houston manager Bo Porter said about Feldman, who signed a $30 million, three-year contract in December.After spending his first eight seasons in Texas, Feldman went 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA last season in two home games against the Rangers -- one with the Chicago Cubs and the other for Baltimore.Catcher Jason Castro had two hits and one of three home runs Thursday for Houston, which matched its run total from the previous three contests.Castro is 16 for 32 with four homers and nine RBIs in his last nine versus Texas.
Since the start of last season, Yu Darvish has recorded 129 strikeouts with his slider, the most in the majors with the pitch over that span. The Houston Astros have struck out 424 times against the slider since the start of last season, 36 more times than any other team in the majors. Darvish has recorded 52 strikeouts in five games against the Astros since the start of last year, 27 of which came via the slider.
Yu Darvish is 2nd Rangers pitcher to have 3 career games of at least 8 IP and 1 hit or fewer allowed. The other is Nolan Ryan (6 games).