Verlander, Astros ready to hit reset button vs. Rangers

Field Level Media

April 18, 2019 at 8:06 pm.

At some point, the Astros were bound to appear mortal, sure to taste defeat again, and likely to resemble something other than a juggernaut steamrolling the rest of the American League.

With a 2-1 loss at Oakland on Wednesday, Houston saw its 10-game winning streak come to an end. The Astros produced a plus-29 run differential during that stretch and presented all the earmarks of what makes them a formidable championship contender: power up and down their lineup, sterling starting pitching and a dominant back end of the bullpen. Houston won the first four games of its current eight-game road trip against AL West opponents, a stretch that continues on Friday against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington.

The Rangers were the last team to tame the Astros prior to Wednesday, claiming back-to-back home victories on April 2-3. Houston returns to the scene of its first-week struggles, seemingly better positioned to continue matching the hype that accompanied the Astros to open the year.

“Any time you win 10 in a row, it’s something special,” Astros outfielder Josh Reddick said to MLB.com. “It’s a lot of fun because you come in here every day and you know you’re going to win. You just have all the confidence in the world. We knew it was going to end at some point.

“We’ll hit the reset button (Thursday), come back out (Friday) and hopefully get some revenge on those Rangers.”

The Astros will turn to right-hander Justin Verlander (2-0, 3.52 ERA) in the opener of their three-game set with Texas. Verlander dominated the Seattle Mariners in his previous outing, allowing one run on two hits while recording 11 strikeouts over six innings in a 3-1 victory. He is 13-8 with a 2.98 ERA over 26 career starts against the Rangers, taking the loss on April 2 after surrendering four runs on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts over four innings in a 6-4 defeat. Verlander went 2-2 with a 2.03 ERA over five starts against the Rangers last season.

Left-hander Drew Smyly (0-1, 7.15 ERA) gets the start for Texas. He allowed one run on four hits and two walks with two strikeouts over three innings in a 2-1 loss to the Astros on April 1 and is 1-2 with a 4.66 ERA over six career appearances (four starts) against Houston. Prior to his first start of this season, Smyly last faced the Astros on Aug. 26, 2016, while with the Rays.

The Rangers extended their winning streak to four games with a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday. At three games over .500, the Rangers have enjoyed a surprisingly solid start to a season in which they are not expected to contend. Winning its earlier three-game series with the Astros set a positive tone, one Texas hopes to continue while facing the daunting challenge of working against the top of the Astros rotation, starting with Verlander.

“We are going to fight tooth and nail to win those games,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said to MLB.com. “Prepare the best we can for all three of their starters and not be fearful and take it to them. Honestly, that’s all we can do against any team. We’re not scared of them, obviously, they are a good ballclub. I have a ton of respect for them, but at the same time our guys are ready to go out and compete.”