Despite a string of sub-.500 opponents, the Texas Rangers have cooled off from a torrid stretch that culminated with a sweep of the Houston Astros.
The Rangers will try to get rolling again and protect their slim lead atop the AL West during another series against the Astros that begins Monday night.
Texas (71-53) is in the middle of a stretch of 24 consecutive games against teams with losing records but dropped to 2-3 on its current homestand with a 4-3 defeat to Seattle on Sunday. After his club rallied from three one-run deficits, Joe Nathan gave up the go-ahead double in the ninth.
The loss and Oakland's victory over Cleveland cut the Rangers' edge in the division to one-half game.
"I'm not going to sit here and second guess," Nathan told the team's website.
Texas will try to conclude its eight-game stay in Arlington on a more positive note by adding to its recent dominance of the last-place Astros (41-82). The Rangers have won 15 of 17 matchups dating back to last season and five of the last six at home.
Houston, though, heads into this series having won of four of six since being swept in four games by Texas at Minute Maid Park from Aug. 9-12. The Astros took two of three from the Los Angeles Angels this weekend, and Matt Dominguez provided a tiebreaking three-run homer during his four-hit performance in Sunday's 7-5 victory.
"At some point, we're going to start to get our breaks," manager Bo Porter said. "We're swinging the bats real well, and we're getting good starting pitching."
The Astros were slated to start Jordan Lyles in this game, but he made a surprise relief appearance in Sunday's win. Houston is expected to turn to Lucas Harrell (6-13, 5.16 ERA) in this game.
The major league's co-leader in losses has made one start since a miserable outing in Texas on July 5. He gave up a season-high nine runs over 3 2-3 innings in a 10-5 loss and is 0-2 with a 12.00 ERA in two career starts in Arlington.
Harrell is 1-3 with a 6.10 ERA in four overall starts against the Rangers.
Matt Garza (2-1, 3.86), meanwhile, will try for a better performance after going 1-1 with a 5.23 ERA in his three starts this month. That includes a 9-5 win over the Astros on Aug. 9.
Garza gave up four runs over seven innings in that game, struck out eight and got seven runs of support. He's received two runs or fewer in his four other outings since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 22.
"He can give up four runs and we'll still win," manager Ron Washington told the team's website about Garza. "He just keeps us in ballgames."
Garza is having his start bumped up one day after Alexi Ogando developed inflammation in a nerve in his right shoulder. Garza has won three straight decisions against the Astros, also limiting them to a solo homer and three other hits in eight innings of a 3-1 win June 21 for the Cubs.
Adrian Beltre, batting .437 in his last 19 games, hit a two-run homer off Harrell in the win in July. Beltre is hitting .455 with five doubles, four homers and 10 RBIs in his last 11 matchups with the Astros.
The Associated Press News Service
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