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 2014 season.
The Opponent: The Astros got off to a hot start against the New York Yankees and have since come back to reality, having lost three straight and working on a four-game sweep with a loss tonight at Toronto.
Past Meetings: The Rangers thoroughly dominated their new division rivals last season and ran away with the Silver Boot (who cares?) with a 17-2 record against their Lone Star State rivals.
Pitching Matchups: Friday — Scott Feldman (2-0, 0.66 ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (1-0, 0.00); Saturday — Jarred Cosart (1-1, 4.09) vs. TBD*; Sunday — Brett Oberholtzer (0-2, 4.91) vs. TBD*
*One of those TBDs is almost certainly going to be Colby Lewis, who will be making his return to the big-league mound after not pitching for the Rangers since July 2012.
What's Hot: On one end of the Rangers' high-priced off-season acquisition spectrum, Shin-Soo Choo has been awesome so far this season. Over the last week, he's hitting .400 with a .480 on-base percentage with two doubles and a triple. He's given the Rangers a legitimately elite leadoff man for the first time in, well, ever. Elvis Andrus has a hit in every game so far this season. Yu Darvish will look to follow up his 2014 debut in Tampa Bay with a similar outing. In that game, he fanned six hitters in the first three innings and then efficiently mowed down the next four innings' worth of hitters without a single K.
The Astros' pint-sized second baseman, Jose Altuve, is hitting .308 over his last seven games, and Dexter Fowler is 3-for-8 this week with a run in limited time. Former Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman is off to a hot start and has two of the team's three wins this season.
What's Not: On the other end, there's Prince Fielder. The slugging first baseman has struggled out of the gates, hitting just .160 over the last week. He still has just one extra-base hit (a double) this season. He seemed to be on track in Tuesday's win with a 2-for-5 day, but then went 0-for-4 on Wednesday. In his last four apperances, Neal Cotts has given up three earned runs in three innings, including David Ortiz's big go-ahead homer in the eighth inning on Wednesday.
Oberholtzer is 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA in the last week, and other than Feldman, he's the good pitcher the Rangers will face. Cosart got lit up in his last start after a stellar rookie season and a strong opening start this year. Cosart gave up five runs in six innings, walking four, in his last outing. Catcher Jason Castro, one of the Astros' promising young players, it hitting just .118 over the past week.
Familiar Faces: First off, there's obviously Nolan Ryan. The former Astros and Rangers pitcher, who has now worked in the Rangers organization and the Astros organization twice — currently working on his second stint. It's hard to imagine Ryan coming to Arlington this weekend, but if he does, it'll be interesting to see where he sits. Feldman has gotten off to a blistering start on the mound for the Astros, but he's certainly no No. 1 starter, and the Astros will realize that sooner rather than later.