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On Deck: Astros

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On Deck: Astros

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David Murphy #7 of the Texas Rangers is tagged out by Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros attempting to steal second base on Opening Day at Minute Maid Park.

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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 Rangers haven't owned any team in the league like they've owned the Astros this year, and Houston isn't exactly playing spoiler to anyone, coming fresh off a four-game sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians, who are currently in line to receive the second Wild Card berth in the AL. They're ripe for another sweep, and the Rangers must oblige them.

Past 2013 Meetings: The Rangers are 14-2 this season against the 100-loss Astros, and since that Opening Night game the mark improves to 13-1. Over their last 10 meetings, the Rangers are 9-1 and the Rangers have won their last eight against the Stros. There's no question here, the Rangers need another sweep.

Pitching Matchups: Monday — Derek Holland (9-9, 3.48 ERA) vs. Jordan Lyles (7-8, 5.26); Tuesday — Yu Darvish (13-9, 2.81) vs. Brad Peacock (5-5, 5.24); Wednesday — Martin Perez (9-5, 3.54) vs. Dallas Keuchel (6-9, 4.99)

What's Hot: Over his last five games, which has comprised of 14 at-bats, Craig Gentry is hitting .571 with a double, triple and four stolen bases. He's laid claim to the starting left field gig for the final stretch of the season. Elvis Andrus has remained red-hot over the last week, with two home runs and a team-high seven RBIs out of the No. 2 spot, and Ian Kinsler is hitting .300 over the last week. The Rangers got some great pitching performances over the weekend from Alexi Ogando and Matt Garza, who will both start their final game of the regular season against the Angels. The bullpen has been great, as of late, led by Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross.

L.J. Hoes, who the Astros acquired for Bud Norris at the trade deadline from Baltimore, has been on fire ever since coming to Houston. Over the last week, he's hitting .412 and is basically a one-man offense for the Astros. Every now and then, homer-or-nothing Chris Carter has come through with two home runs over the past week, but not much else. Keuchel is coming off an outing that saw him strike out seven and allow just one run over seven innings.

What's Not: Joe Nathan blew a save against the Rays last week, and Jason Frasor and Joakim Soria also struggled. Yu Darvish will look to bounce back from a rough outing last week that the Rangers' offense bailed him out of, but it shouldn't be a problem against the Astros, a team he's nearly no-hit twice this season. Alex Rios and A.J. Pierzynski have both gone ice-cold at the plate and need to wake up in a hurry. They're both hitting under .200 over the last week and have combined for eight hits over that span.

Lyles gave up nine runs in 3 1/3 innings his last time out, and the Rangers need to jump on him in a hurry to gain some momentum in Monday's series opener. Jose Altuve was one of baseball's hottest hitters through the first few weeks of September but has cooled off over his last seven games, hitting just .241 over that time.

Familiar Faces: Travis Blackley was a post-deadline waiver acquisition from the Astros and has made a couple of spot starts for the Rangers with varied levels of success. His Rangers debut ironically came against the Astros. Now, he's a long option out of the bullpen as Alexi Ogando has returned from a third DL stint this year to put a stranglehold on the rotation spot.

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