Rangers-Astros Preview

After picking up a crucial game on the Texas Rangers behind a power barrage, the Houston Astros next lean on their ace to move them closer in the AL West race.

Dallas Keuchel puts a 20-start home unbeaten streak on the line in Sunday's matchup with a Rangers team that dealt the All-Star his worst outing of the season earlier this month.

Houston (81-74) used a season-high six home runs - two each from Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve - to move within 3 1-2 games of the Rangers and keep hold of the AL's second wild card with Saturday's wild 9-7 win. The Astros overcame an early 3-0 deficit and withstood a three-run rally in the ninth to end an eight-game series losing streak.

Correa's second homer forged a 4-all tie in the third and gave the 21-year-old 21 this season, breaking Dickie Thon's franchise record for a shortstop and tying Lance Berkman's club rookie mark.

"His ability to stay calm in the moment continues to shine through," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.

Altuve recorded his first multi-homer game one day after exiting Houston's 6-2 loss in the series opener when he collided with Correa while chasing a popup.

''I need to hit him every single day so he hits homers the next day,'' Correa joked.

The Astros have to like their chances of gaining further ground, as Keuchel (18-8, 2.51 ERA) enters Sunday's finale 14-0 with a 1.47 ERA in 17 home starts this season. He's won 15 straight decisions at Minute Maid Park since permitting five runs in six innings in a 6-2 loss to Texas on Aug. 10, 2014.

Keuchel extended the stretch by holding the Los Angeles Angels to a run over 7 2-3 innings in Monday's 6-3 victory, bouncing back from a Sept. 16 shellacking at Texas in which he was tagged for a career-high nine runs and 11 hits, including three homers, in 4 2-3 innings.

The Cy Young candidate has had better success against the Rangers in his home park. Keuchel has allowed one run over 15 innings in two season meetings at home, the last a 10-0 victory July 19 where he struck out a career-high 13 and threw seven innings of two-hit ball.

Josh Hamilton is 7 for 18 with a homer against Keuchel and made his first start since Aug. 15 Saturday. The former AL MVP had been limited to two pinch-hitting appearances in his return from Sept. 11 left knee surgery.

''It's still day to day based off how he feels,'' Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. ''We're at a point now where we need to find out how it's going to go.''

Martin Perez (3-5, 5.21) hopes to duplicate his performance when matched up against Keuchel on Sept. 16, when the left-hander yielded a run in seven innings of a 14-3 victory. He improved to 4-1 with a 2.00 ERA in five career starts against Houston, completing at least seven innings in four of them.

Perez wasn't as sharp in his follow-up, surrendering five runs and walking three in four-plus innings of Tuesday's 8-6 win at Oakland.

Prince Fielder homered off Keuchel in the most recent matchup and was 3 for 5 with two RBIs Saturday, raising his season totals to .377 with 18 RBIs in 18 games against Houston. Shin-soo Choo homered for a second straight game and is 12 for 18 with seven RBIs in the teams' last four meetings.


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