MLB

Rangers-Astros Preview

The Houston Astros' roster isn't a who's who of major league stars, but rather a something-to-prove group making up baseball's biggest early surprise.

Those unfamiliar with Dallas Keuchel better take notice.

The left-hander takes the mound Monday night against the visiting Texas Rangers looking to guide the Astros to an 11th consecutive victory.

Houston's six-year stretch of below-.500 seasons includes three straight 100-loss campaigns from 2011-13 and a 70-92 finish last year. It hired A.J. Hinch as manager to take over a revamped club, and the Astros have turned some heads thus far.

Off to its best 25-game start in franchise history, Houston (18-7) has won 10 in a row for the first time since a 12-game run in 2004 after beating Seattle 7-6 on Sunday. Evan Gattis hit a three-run homer before his go-ahead solo shot in the eighth for the Astros, who are outscoring opponents 76-37 and batting .291 during their streak.

Four of Gattis' five hits over the last three games have been homers. Jason Marisnick had an RBI single in the first Sunday and is batting .432 during an 11-game hitting streak.

''It's just nice from where we've come from the last couple of years that we lost a lot of games,'' said Chris Carter, who hit a two-run homer. ''It's nice to have this run we're having.''

Keuchel (3-0, 0.73 ERA) is in the second season of his turnaround after posting a 5.20 ERA in 38 starts and nine relief efforts over his first two years. He went 12-9 with a 2.93 ERA in 2014, allowing two earned runs or fewer in his final five starts, and has carried that success into this season.

The 27-year-old has the best ERA in baseball and is allowing the fewest hits per nine innings at 3.89 after giving up one run and three hits in eight innings of a 7-2 win over San Diego on Wednesday.

Houston has won 10 straight games Keuchel has started.

"At the end of the year, if it's still the lowest (ERA), I'll take something," Keuchel said. "I don't really take much out of the first five starts. I've got to continue to grind and try to get better each and every time out."

The Rangers (8-16) scored two of the three runs Keuchel has allowed this season, both coming in Keuchel's seventh and final inning of the Astros' 6-4 victory in 14 on April 12.

Ross Detwiler should be happy he didn't have to face Houston's surging offense as the Astros took two of three in that series. Detwiler (0-3, 8.66) yielded five earned runs in each of his first three outings before giving up two in 5 1-3 innings of Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Seattle.

The left-hander has allowed 30 hits and walked nine in 17 2-3 innings while averaging 19.5 pitches per inning. He pitched exclusively out of the bullpen for Washington last season and gave up one run in 2 2-3 innings in two appearances against the Astros.

Detwiler hasn't allowed a hit to Gattis in four at-bats, but right-handers are hitting .394 with six homers off him this season.

The Rangers, who have lost five of six after falling 7-1 to Oakland on Sunday, have dropped seven of nine meetings in Houston heading into this three-game set.

''It's not the start that we want,'' losing pitcher Yovani Gallardo said. "There's not much you can do other than keep battling and keep working hard like the guys are doing in this clubhouse.''

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