On Deck will be here all season to provide you with everything you need to know (and a few things you don't) about every Rangers series during the 2013 season.
The Opponent: The Astros were expected to struggle in their first season as an American League team, and they definitely have. But they have won two straight games over the Los Angeles Angels and can complete a three-game sweep of Anaheim today, whcih would be something even the Rangers have failed to do in two tries this year.
Past 2012 Meetings: The teams opened the MLB season in primetime and the Astros cruised to a win over Matt Harrison before the Rangers went on to take the next two games of the series by a combined score of 11-0, including Yu Darvish's near-perfecto.
Pitching Matchups: Friday — Alexi Ogando (3-2, 3.08 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel (0-1, 4.96); Saturday — Yu Darvish (5-1, 2.56) vs. Erik Bedard (0-2, 7.36); Sunday — Nick Tepesch (2-3, 4.50) vs. Jordan Lyles (1-0, 4.50).
What's Hot: There hasn't been a hotter ticket in baseball this year than when Yu Darvish makes a start. The whole baseball world is starting to stop down for those nights as a double-digit strikeout game is almost a guarantee, it seems. Last time Darvish faced the Astros, he took a perfect game 8 2/3 innings before Marwin Gonzalez hit a sharp grounder back up the middle to end the perfect-game bid in Darvish's first start of the season. At the plate, the Rangers are getting a boost from Mitch Moreland, who actually hit fifth on Wednesday in Milwaukee and hit his second home run in as many nights as he's hitting over .400 over his last 17 games and is crushing left-handed pitching, an area he's always struggled in. Ian Kinsler was a triple shy of the cycle on Wednesday and is the team's leading hitter this season. When he's on, the Rangers' offense is on. Oh, and finally, Adrian Beltre is starting to come around, hitting .345 over his last seven games.
There isn't much in the way of "hot" for the Astros but the one star the Astros have is playing like the star he is becoming, as Jose Altuve, the pint-sized second baseman, is hitting .333 over his last five games. The Astros also have one star on the mound in Bud Norris, who probably won't be an Astro after the trade deadline. In his last 15 innings, the Houston start is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA.
What's Not: For the Astros, this list is pretty much everyone aside from Altuve and Norris, but for the Rangers, the list still includes some key figures. Nelson Cruz has cooled way off after a hot start, doing what Cruz always does, and he's 4-for his last 25 at-bats.
Familiar Faces: There aren't many other than the obvious ties Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan has with both organizations. There were rumors earlier in the year that Ryan would switch Texas teams after he was jilted by the Rangers' front office and stripped of the title of team president, which went to general manager Jon Daniels. But Ryan is too close to retirement to join a stripped down, rebuilding team, and that's exactly what the Astros are while the Rangers are now a perennial World Series contender.