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: There isn't a worst team in the standings than the Astros, but the young team — as cliche as it sounds — really does fight pretty hard. They have a couple of good, young hitters and a strong, young pitching staff. The Rangers have dominated them this season in their first as an AL team, but the Rangers still have to take them seriously or they could lose their grip on the division.
Past 2013 Meetings: The Rangers have won 11 of 13 games against the Astros, including a four-game sweep in Houston just last week.
Pitching Matchups: Monday — Matt Garza (8-2, 3.40 ERA; 2-1, 3.86 as Ranger) vs. Lucas Harrell (6-13, 5.16); Tuesday — Travis Blackley vs. Zach Cosart (1-0, 1.15); Wednesday — Derek Holland (9-6, 2.95) vs. Erik Bedard (3-9, 4.49)
What's Hot: The usual suspect, Adrian Beltre, is still red hot at the plate for the Rangers but hasn't hit a homer in more than a week. He's hitting .450 with a .560 on-base percentage over his last six games. Craig Gentry, who's been given the opportunity to get more playing time lately. In his last six games, he's 4-for-12 with three RBIs and had a big pinch-hit in Wednesday's win over Milwaukee. Holland has continued his best season of his career and now has his season ERA under 3.00 with a seven-inning, two-hit effort on Friday in what ended up as a tough-luck no-decision for Holland.
Since coming over from Baltimore in the deadline-day deal for Bud Norris, L.J. Hoes has been on fire for the Astros, hitting .524 over the last five games, and he's given the Astros another bat in the top of their lineup to go with Jose Altuve and Jason Castro. Matt Dominguez has followed suit, hitting .357 over the last week.
What's Not: The power on this team has gone into another funk, as Mitch Moreland has the team's only home run in the last week. Matt Garza will hope to bounce back from a subpar start against Milwaukee, one his offense bailed him out of, by going out the Astros in Monday's season opener. In that game against the Brewers, he allowed four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings.
The aforementioned Altuve and Castro are about all the Astros have offensively, and both are in cold spells at the moment, as each is hitting under .200 over the last week. To give the Astros a chance, those two will have to pick up their games at the plate.
Familiar Faces: Lance Berkman, who is currently trying to work his way back from having old knees and hips, spent the first decade-plus of his big-league career as a member of the Astros and is one of the most recognizable faces in the franchise's history. Also, the Rangers traded for demoted reliever/spot starter Travis Blackley last week, and Blackley could be a possible candidate for Tuesday's spot start for the Rangers, even though he's currently at Triple-A Round Rock.