MLB

Rangers-Astros Preview

While the Texas Rangers' Cole Hamels is set to again try for a record-tying win that has eluded him, fellow ace Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros is searching for his first victory since mid-April.

Keuchel looks to deny Hamels that win and the visiting Rangers a series sweep Sunday.

Texas (24-19) won the first two games of the set by 2-1 scores to extend its winning streak in the series to five. The Rangers have taken 13 of their last 15 against Houston (17-27).

Hamels (4-0, 3.10 ERA) can tie the club mark with a 12th consecutive winning decision. He was unable to reach the milestone in his last two starts despite pitching reasonably well in both, surrendering three earned runs each time over 12 1/3 innings.

Home runs hurt the left-hander in those starts, as he surrendered five after giving up four in his first six outings. He'll try to avoid the long ball as he tries to match Bobby Witt's franchise-record 12-0 stretch in 1990.

Hamels beat Houston 2-1 at home April 20 with 6 2-3 innings of one-run ball.

Evan Gattis, Jose Altuve, Colby Rasmus and Tyler White have combined to bat .375 against Hamels with five home runs. Gattis hit two of those homers while Altuve has one while going 5 for 9.

Houston has dropped three straight and is last in the AL West, due in large part due to a floundering rotation that's produced a 4.85 ERA. Keuchel (2-5, 5.43) has been one of the primary culprits, failing to duplicate the precision that earned him the Cy Young Award last year.

After issuing 1.98 walks per nine innings during that 20-win season, the left-hander has more than doubled that mark through his first eight starts of 2016. The lack of command has made him far more hittable, as evidenced by a six-start winless streak in which he's 0-4 with a 7.32 ERA.

The Astros had lost his previous five outings before winning 6-5 in his most recent Tuesday, with Keuchel holding the Chicago White Sox to three runs in 6 1/3 innings. He walked three for the second straight start.

"Overall, I felt really good, command-wise," Keuchel told MLB's official website. "Before that seventh inning, got a little tired."

Keuchel's winless stretch started with a 7-4 loss at Texas on April 21 in which he gave up six runs and a season-high 13 hits in six innings. He's been hammered in two of his last three starts in the series, giving up 15 runs over 10 2/3 innings in those games.

Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre have faced Keuchel more than anyone else in the major leagues, with Andrus hitting .227 in 44 at-bats and Beltre at .256 in 43 ABs with three doubles and a home run.

Ian Desmond, Prince Fielder and Rougned Odor have also homered off Keuchel.

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