(Sports Network) – The American League West-leading Texas Rangers have dominated the intrastate rival Houston Astros lately and will shoot for a three-game series sweep tonight from the Ballpark in Arlington.
The Rangers have won 12 of the last 14 meetings with Houston, including the first two portions of this series, and last swept a three-game set at home against the Astros from May 20-22, 2005. After an 8-3 triumph in the series opener on Monday, the Rangers inched by Houston, 5-4, in 11 innings last night on Mitch Moreland’s leadoff home run in the bottom of the frame.
Texas belted four home runs in the game, as Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Nelson Cruz each got into the long-ball act. Young had three hits and both Hamilton and Taylor Teagarden recorded two apiece for the Rangers, who are two games ahead of Seattle for the AL West lead and have won four of five since a five-game slide.
Moreland’s homer made a winner out of Yoshinori Tateyama, who tossed a scoreless top of the 11th, while Rangers starter C.J. Wilson was reached for four runs and 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings for the no-decision.
“I was happy to be able to come through and do it,” Moreland said. “It was a lot of fun, but it’s good to get the series out of the way for us.”
The Rangers rank among the best in the majors with 82 homers this season and will take on the New York Mets for three games after this set.
Hamilton, meanwhile, continues to light up National League pitching and is batting .480 with six homers and 21 RBI in his last 17 games against the Senior Circuit. The reigning AL MVP has hit safely in his last 16 home games in interleague play, batting .435 with four home runs and 12 RBI in that span.
Young has hit safely in eight consecutive games, registering a .353 batting average in that stretch.
Making his 15th start of the season for the Rangers tonight will be Colby Lewis, who ended a two-game slide his previous time out in a 6-2 victory at Atlanta on Friday. Lewis struck out 10 batters over 6 2/3 innings in which he allowed two runs and five hits.
Lewis is 2-3 over his past five decisions and owns a 6-7 mark in 14 overall starts to go along with a 4.80 ERA. The right-hander is 2-3 in six home starts this season and will face the Astros for the sixth time in his career. He is 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA in five games (two starts) against Houston, and 3-2 with a 2.60 ERA in five starts against the NL over the past two seasons.
Houston has dropped three in a row and 14 of its last 18 games, and wasted a solid outing from rookie starter Jordan Lyles last night. Lyles allowed three runs over seven innings with six strikeouts and two walks for the Astros, who are a major league-worst 27-48 on the season and 27-35 all-time against Texas.
“No one wants to lose, guys are going out there trying their best to get guys out,” Lyles said. “Sometimes it just doesn’t fall the way you want it to.”
Astros reliever Enerio Del Rosario struck out three over 2 1/3 innings, but allowed Moreland’s home run in the bottom of the 11th to suffer the loss.
Keppinger is riding a nine-game hitting streak for a Houston club that was hoping to get outfielder Hunter Pence back in the lineup.
Pence injured his left elbow on a slide into first base during a 7-3 win at Los Angeles on Friday and was examined by Dr. Tom Mehlhoff. An MRI revealed a sprain, but no tears or ligament damage for Pence, whose range of motion has improved since the weekend and is one of the major league leaders with 181 hits since the 2010 All-Star break.
The Fort Worth, Texas native is batting .321 with nine homers and 51 RBI this season and said he feels good about coming back, though he’ll likely sit out again tonight.
“It’s just not ready to swing,” Pence said of the elbow. “It’s close, very close, but I’m not ready. There’s really no way other to say I can’t really swing. Until I can, I don’t know how you can really play. I’m going to wait until it’s ready so I can play. [Then] I’m going to play hard and play good.”
After visiting the Rangers tonight, the Astros will return to Minute Maid Park for a nine-game homestand versus Tampa Bay, Texas and Boston.
Brett Myers has lasted at least 5 2/3 innings in all of his starts this season and will get the nod for Houston this evening. Myers recorded the club’s first complete game of the season Friday in a 7-3 win at Los Angeles, as he allowed three runs — two earned — and four hits with six strikeouts and one walk.
Myers retired 17 straight batters at one point to lift his mark to 3-6 with a 4.75 earned run average in 15 starts in 2011.
The right-hander is 2-2 in eight home starts this season and will take on Texas for only the second time in his career. Myers luckily did not figure into the decision of an 8-7 loss at the Rangers back on June 27, 2008, while then a member of Philadelphia. He was rocked for five runs and five hits in only two innings of work.