Texas Rangers

Rangers hope to maintain dominance of surging Houston Astros

Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, left, had two hits and a walk against the Oakland A’s on Sunday and will enter the series against the Rangers hitting .330. He also has a .408 on-base percentage and a .543 slugging percentage.
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, left, had two hits and a walk against the Oakland A’s on Sunday and will enter the series against the Rangers hitting .330. He also has a .408 on-base percentage and a .543 slugging percentage. rrodriguez@star-telegram.com

Don’t look now but the Houston Astros are winning again.

They’ve won 11 of their past 13 games and begin a four-game set with the Rangers on Monday at Globe Life Park.

The Rangers have heated up, too, and have won the first six games against the Astros.

Since last season Texas is 19-6 against Houston. A year ago the Rangers were the team struggling to catch up as the Astros burst out of the gate with an 18-7 start. This year, the Astros started 8-18. But they’ve gone 20-12 since and closing in on .500 for the first time since the season’s opening week.

Whatever team you align yourself with, to have the two teams that are both exciting and both fun to watch play, to get so many games head-to-head in the same division, it makes for a lot of fun.

Rangers manager Jeff Banister

The Rangers, who started 9-16 in 2015, know the slow start means little, especially for a team many consider a World Series contender.

“I’ve seen that film before, I think we’ve lived that film before,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister joked. “They’re playing very well. We’re going to have be on top of our game. They’re a hot ballclub.”

The Rangers, Banister posited, rose to the occasion against the Astros recently because not only were Lone Star State bragging rights on the line, but the American League West division title was in the balance a year ago.

19-6 The Rangers record against the Astros since the beginning of 2015, including 6-0 entering Monday’s four-game set at Globe Life Park.

“They love to play when certain lights shine brighter,” he said. “Early on [in 2015], there was a lot of talk about how fresh that ballclub was and they were on top and they were playing well. Our guys aspire to get talked about like that and be recognized. They want to be the standard-bearers, they want to be the championship team.”

Left-hander Derek Holland established season-highs for innings and strikeouts Sunday in a fourth straight quality start (video by Jeff Wilson).

Lewis starts opener

Colby Lewis, who faces right-hander Mike Fiers in Monday’s opener, said there has been no secret ingredient to beating the Astros.

“I don’t know if you can really put a finger on one thing or another,” he said. “I feel like last year there were some games we had to win, especially against a division rival. Maybe we took advantage of some opportunities because we’re a little bit older of a ballclub and we were a little more relaxed in those series. I’m sure they’ve learned.”

Banister, a proud Texan who grew up south of Houston, calls the rivalry a dream come true.

“Whatever team you align yourself with, to have the two teams that are both exciting and both fun to watch play, to get so many games head-to-head in the same division, it makes for a lot of fun,” he said. “We’ve had some things go our way and we’ve played well against them. That’s a terrific ballclub.”

Rangers catcher Bobby Wilson credited Elvis Andrus for scoring on his shallow sacrifice fly to left and Derek Holland for limiting the Mariners to a two-run Nelson Cruz homer over seven innings (Video by Stefan Stevenson/Star-Telegram).

Wilson’s toe

Bobby Wilson had a hole drilled into his left big toe to drain fluid that had built up.

He fouled a ball off the toe in the second inning Friday and was out of the lineup Saturday. He started Sunday and played with a large bandage over the toe. It’s still painful because the nail is basically removed, leaving a raw patch of sensitive skin.

Chirinos’ rehab

Catcher Robinson Chirinos began a rehab assignment with Triple A Round Rock on Sunday night. Chirinos has been on the DL since April 10 with a fractured right forearm. He’s eligible to return Thursday.

Martin’s visit

Mariners outfielder Leonys Martin, on the disabled list, made the rounds in the Rangers’ clubhouse before Sunday’s game. He hugged, high-fived and visited briefly with a bunch of former teammates. A player for another team is rarely seen in the opposing team’s clubhouse.

Stefan Stevenson: 817-390-7760, @StevensonFWST

Two of the Rangers' three runs Sunday were unearned as they took advantage of an error and a error in judgment in the fifth inning (video by Jeff Wilson).

Elvis Andrus tagged up and scored the tying run in an eventual 3-2 Rangers victory Sunday when he took advantage of a "lazy" play in left field (video by Jeff Wilson).

Rangers designated hitter Jurickson Profar slapped an opposite-filed grounder past third base for the game-winning hit Sunday (video by Jeff Wilson).

Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus surprised Mariners' left-fielder Stefen Romero along with Adrian Beltre and the entire stadium with a late tag up from third in the fifth inning Sunday (Video by Stefan Stevenson/Star-Telegram).

Rangers manager Jeff Banister says he understands Prince Fielder being upset with two days out of the lineup (Video by Stefan Stevenson/Star-Telegram).

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