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Preview: Rangers at Astros

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The Texas Rangers seemingly can't lose - and especially in Houston. The Rangers, who have won seven straight and 12 of 13 to take a one-game lead over Oakland in the American League West, aim for a four-game sweep of the struggling Astros on Monday. Texas has won eight straight meetings in Houston and 18 of the last 21.

The Rangers already have claimed their seventh straight series win at Minute Maid Park and lead the season series 10-2. Texas outfielder Alex Rios is 4-for-7 with two RBIs and two runs scored in his first two games since being acquired from the Chicago White Sox on Friday. The Astros hope to get a boost from the return of rookie shortstop Jonathan Villar, who is expected to be in the lineup after missing four straight starts with a sprained left thumb.

TV: 2:10 p.m. ET, FSN Southwest (Texas), CSN Houston

PITCHING MATCHUP: Rangers RH Yu Darvish (11-5, 2.72 ERA) vs. Astros LH Brett Oberholtzer (2-0, 2.53)

Darvish has recorded four straight quality starts - and won three of them - as he continues to make a case for the AL Cy Young Award. The 26-year-old has eight double-digit strikeout games this year, including his season debut in which he fanned 14 Astros and was one out away from a perfect game. Darvish is 3-1 with a 3.03 ERA in four career starts against Houston.

Oberholtzer has yet to allow a run as a major-league starter, working seven scoreless frames over each of his first two turns since moving into the rotation. The 24-year-old has held opponents to a .143 batting average in his two starts, yielding only seven hits. Oberholtzer is making his first start versus the Rangers, but he made a relief appearance against them July 5 and permitted one run on three hits over 3 1/3 innings.

WALK-OFFS

1. Rios is hitting .364 with eight RBIs and seven runs scored during an 11-game hitting streak.

2. Astros C Jason Castro is riding a career-best 10-game hitting streak, but is 2-for-12 with three strikeouts against Darvish.

3. The Rangers are 23-13 in games started by an opposing left-hander.

PREDICTION: Rangers 4, Astros 1

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130812/preview-rangers-at-astros