With an eye on returning to first place in the AL West, the Texas Rangers look to extend a five-game winning streak over the Houston Astros on Friday night when the division rivals open up a three-game series.
The Rangers have not been lower than second place in the standings since April 2 and occupied first place in the division every day from April 21-June 6. They have alternated streak of first and second place since, never falling more than three games off the pace.
Two straight losses to Seattle to begin the week put Texas a half-game behind Oakland for the top spot and the Rangers were unable to surpass the Athletics despite avoiding a sweep with Thursday's 5-4 win over the Mariners.
Adrian Beltre hit a pair of solo homers, including one in the seventh inning that ignited a go-ahead, four-run rally. Mitch Moreland, Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler also drove in runs during the comeback as Texas avoided getting swept at home by Seattle for the first time since April of 2002.
"We look up to him. I think he was the main reason we got the win today. He's one of those guys that in any game he can do something like that," Andrus said of Beltre.
Texas is now 3-3 on a nine-game homestand that will conclude with this set. The Rangers stand a good chance at a winning residency given they have won five of six versus the Astros this year -- with all six games in Houston -- and are 24-6 in this series since 2009.
Winless in his past eight starts, Nick Tepesch hopes to secure his first victory for the Rangers since beating the Astros in Houston back on May 12.
The right-hander held the Astros to a run over six innings with a career-high eight strikeouts in that game, the rookie's first ever encounter with Houston.
He nearly matched that strikeout total last time out on Saturday despite logging just four-plus innings versus Cincinnati, getting a no-decision in a 6-4 loss. Tepesch likely would have traded some strikeouts for a better effort as he allowed four runs -- three earned -- on six hits and two walks.
He has lost his past three decisions and is pitching to a 7.46 earned run average in his last five, leaving him 3-6 on the year with a 4.71 ERA in 15 starts.
Tepesch may have to be careful when facing Houston's Brett Wallace, who is hitting .286 with three homers and nine RBI in eight games since being recalled from the minors. A good chunk of that production came in Thursday's 7-5 loss to Tampa Bay in 11 innings, with Wallace connecting on a solo homer as well as a game-tying three-run shot in the eighth inning.
However, the Rays went ahead for good with a pair of runs in the top of the 11th inning and handed the Astros their eighth loss in 10 games.
"It was definitely crazy," said Wallace. "We were trying to fight hard to get a split (of the four-game series) ... I think you have to be proud of the fact that we kept battling, but at the same time, we came up a little short."
Getting the call for the Astros in tonight's opener will be Lucas Harrell, who is 5-8 through 18 starts this season with a 4.59 ERA.
Harrell was tagged for seven runs on seven hits and four walks over just 3 1/3 innings of a loss to St. Louis on June 25, but rebounded nicely last time out versus the Los Angeles Angels. The righty allowed a run over seven innings of a no-decision.
"I thought today his stuff was probably as good as it's been all year," Astros manager Bo Porter said of Harrell.
Harrell lost to the Rangers at home in his season debut on April 2. The 28- year-old allowed a run in six innings of work in an eventual 7-0 defeat, falling to 1-2 with a 3.71 ERA in three career meetings with Texas.