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Preview: Rangers at Astros

Current Conditions – Houston
P/SUNNY 90 °F
Wind: SSW 7
5-Day Forecast GAME: Texas Rangers (84-70) at Houston Astros (81-74)
DATE/TIME: Sunday, September 27 – 2:10 PM EST
WHERE: Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
LINE: N/A TOTAL: N/A

The Houston Astros snapped an eight-game losing streak against the Texas Rangers just in time to ensure that their lead for the second American League wild card would stay intact. The Astros will try to claim a series win and put some more distance between themselves and the Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota when they host the Rangers in the finale of their three-game series on Sunday.

Houston fans endured a scare on Friday, when their young middle-infield combination of Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve collided in shallow center field, causing the latter to leave the game and adding a crushing moment to another loss to the state rivals. Altuve was back in the lineup Saturday, and he and Correa each hit two home runs in a 9-7 win that pulled the Astros within 3 1/2 games of first-place Texas in the AL West and kept them one-half game ahead of the Angels and 1 1/2 in front of the Twins for the second wild card. The setback was just the third in the last 13 games for the Rangers, who finish the regular season with seven games at home against Detroit and the Angels after wrapping up in Houston. Texas will try to restore its 4 1/2-game advantage when it sends Martin Perez to the mound against Astros ace Dallas Keuchel.

TV: 2:10 p.m. ET, TBS, FSN Southwest (Texas), ROOT (Houston)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Rangers LH Martin Perez (3-5, 5.21 ERA) vs. Astros LH Dallas Keuchel (18-8, 2.51)

Perez sandwiched a strong outing between a pair of duds in his last three starts, but that solid turn happened to come against Houston on Sept. 16. The 24-year-old Venezuelan allowed one run and nine hits in seven innings to pick up the win in that start but was rocked for five runs – four earned – on six hits and three walks in four frames at Oakland on Tuesday. Perez is 4-1 with a 2.00 ERA in five career starts against the Astros.

Keuchel is trying to lead his team to the playoffs and pad his Cy Young Award resume with two more starts scheduled this season, and home is where he does his best work. The Arkansas product is making his final home start of the regular campaign and trying to stay undefeated in Minute Maid Park, where he is 14-0 with a 1.47 ERA in 17 outings. Keuchel was knocked around for nine runs and 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings at Texas on Sept. 16 but bounced back with a win over the Angels at home on Monday.

WALK-OFFS

1. Rangers LF Josh Hamilton (knee) played in the outfield Saturday for the first time since Aug. 15 and went 1-for-4 with a single and three strikeouts.

2. Altuve is 9-for-21 with six runs scored during his five-game hitting streak.

3. Texas RF Shin-Soo Choo is 12-for-18 with eight runs scored in his last four contests against Houston.

PREDICTION: Astros 5, Rangers 1