MLB

Astros-Rangers Preview

Scott Kazmir's July was among the best in baseball history so it's not a big surprise that he now leads the league in ERA.

The AL West-leading Houston Astros just want him to help them snap their four-game road skid.

Kazmir looks to extend his shutout streak as the Astros face the Texas Rangers in the finale of this Lone Star Series on Wednesday night.

In five starts last month, Kazmir (6-5, 2.10 ERA) went 2-0 with a 0.26 ERA, the third-lowest for July in major league history.

"This month, being able to use all my pitches and being able to have a feel for them in any count, that's been the key," Kazmir told MLB's official website.

The left-hander has displayed that dominance with the Astros (60-48), tossing 14 2-3 scoreless innings over two starts since being acquired in a trade with Oakland.

He's closing in on the longest shutout streak by a Houston starter since Carlos Hernandez went 17 innings from Aug. 18-29, 2001.

Kazmir limited the Los Angeles Angels to three hits over 7 2-3 innings in a 3-0 win Thursday.

"I felt good every time I went out there," Kazmir said. "Every pitch I was throwing, it felt like I was able to hit the spot I wanted to and just keep hitters off balance. I was able to attack the strike zone early and expand later on, and that gave me success."

Kazmir is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 21 innings over three starts against the Rangers (53-53) this year but this will be his first with Houston.

The Astros have dropped 10 of 11 on the road, including four in a row after falling 4-3 to Texas on Tuesday.

Carlos Gomez is 8 for 23 in five games since moving to Houston in a trade from Milwaukee. The center fielder has four hits in this series, connecting for a solo homer and an RBI double on Tuesday.

He's a .400 hitter in 11 games in Arlington.

The Rangers are back at .500 after winning six of the last seven at home following a 1-12 stretch there. They're two games back of Toronto for the second wild-card spot.

"Five hundred is not where we want to be," manager Jeff Banister said. "It's just a number we've got to get to (in order) to go where we want to go."

Banister gives the ball to Nick Martinez (6-6, 4.01), who is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in three starts against Houston and will be pitching on his 25th birthday.

The right-hander earned his first win in seven starts Friday, allowing two runs over 6 1-3 innings in a 6-3 victory over San Francisco. He went 0-4 with a 7.01 ERA in his six prior outings.

"I was able to locate (the inside fastball) for effect and for a strike," Martinez said. "I don't throw 95, so I can't just live outside. I have to throw inside so I can keep guys on their toes on both sides of the plate."

Martinez has had a tough time with Jose Altuve, who is 4 for 10 with three doubles off him.

Texas' Josh Hamilton is 7 for 19 with two homers against Kazmir.

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