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Battle For The Silver Boot Opens In Arlington

(Sports Network) - A Lone Star State battle is on tap tonight, when the Houston Astros begin a three-game interleague series with the Texas Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington.

The Astros opened a six-game road trip by taking two of three matchups from the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chavez Ravine over the weekend, but failed to close out a three-game sweep with Sunday's 1-0 loss. Dioner Navarro's solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning off of Astros reliever Wilton Lopez accounted for the game's only run.

Astros starter Bud Norris threw six shutout innings in the no-decision and Chris Johnson collected a pair of hits for Houston, which lost for the 12th time in its last 16 tries and has the worst record in the major leagues at 27-46.

"Dioner's home run late in the game was right on time," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. "[Dodgers starter] Hiroki [Kuroda] was great, that was his game. Hopefully this is the start of something big."

J.A. Happ will handle pitching duties for the Astros tonight and he's only 3-8 with a 4.95 earned run average in 14 starts this season. He is 0-4 with a 4.32 ERA in his last six starts -- all Houston losses -- and posted a no-decision in Wednesday's 7-3 setback versus Pittsburgh.

Happ held the Pirates to two runs and six hits in five innings and struck out seven batters. The lefty is only 1-4 in six interleague starts and has never faced Texas in his career.

Texas is coming off a rough 10-game road trip in which it compiled a 3-7 mark, but still owns a half-game lead over Seattle for AL West bragging rights.

The Rangers dropped two of three games in Atlanta over the weekend and are coming off Sunday's 4-2 setback to the Braves at Turner Field. Yorvit Torrealba had two hits and an RBI for Texas, while Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz finished with two hits apiece in defeat.

Torrealba was replaced by Taylor Teagarden behind the plate later in the game because of heat-related problems.

"It was a long game, but we're no strangers to hot games," Texas first baseman Michael Young said. "We play them all the time, but it was definitely a warm one. It was a well-played game, both teams battled and we just came up on the short end."

Texas will also host the New York Mets for three games on this homestand and sends Derek Holland to the mound Monday. Holland is 5-2 with a 4.76 earned run average in 14 starts and lost his most recent one in Wednesday's 12-4 setback at Yankee Stadium. He allowed six runs and seven hits in five innings.

Holland, a left-hander, made his first major league start in Houston on May 22, 2009 and allowed three runs over 5 2/3 innings for a no-decision in a game won by the Rangers, 6-5.

Texas won five of six encounters with the Astros a season ago and is 10-2 in the 12 most recent meetings between the two ballclubs.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.