It was going to take a sweep against their in-state rivals this weekend for the Rangers to pass the Astros in the American League West. But with a loss to Houston on Friday, for now that's no longer a possibility for Ron Washington's team.
But Washington doesn't view the series that way. His team just needs to win, he said, and everything will take care of itself -- including getting out of the basement of the division.
"If we do what we're supposed to do as far as taking care of each day as it comes and goes, we'll be out of the cellar," Washington said. "As far as thinking, 'Well, we're playing Houston, now we've got to try to get out of the cellar,' no, we're playing Houston, we've just got to try to win today. We're not trying to get out of the cellar on anybody, we're just playing baseball."
Washington sends his most dominant pitcher to the mound Saturday. Yu Darvish allowed one run in seven innings in his last start. He's 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA since the All-Star break in four starts, and has a 4-2 record with a 3.00 ERA in his eight career starts against the Astros.
Darvish will go up against former Ranger Scott Feldman, who saw action with Texas from 2005-2012.
Feldman has allowed just a single run in each of his past two outings, including a complete game against the Blue Jays in his last start. He's had a quality start in his six of his last eight outings, and has allowed three earned runs or less in 11 of the last 14. As he's starting to find late life and movement on his fastball and offspeed pitches, Feldman could help anchor a young Astros rotation.
Having him and Darvish on the mound for their respective teams should create excitement for a series that Astros catcher Jason Castro said is on its way back to relevance.
"It's something that's definitely catching more fan interest as we get closer to where we want to be," Castro said. "Obviously, they're not having the kind of year they want but it's a rivalry series. We all look forward to it."
Astros: Altuve leaves Friday's game early
Astros leadoff hitter and second baseman Jose Altuve left Friday's matchup with the Rangers after five innings due to neck discomfort, though it's unclear when he actually sustained the injury.
Altuve has played in 113 of the 116 Astros games this season and is hitting .333 on the season. He entered Friday's game tied with Robinson Cano for the highest batting average in the American League at .335.
Altuve has four home runs and 34 RBIs on the season. He went 0-for-3 Friday night.
Rangers: Rios won't be out long
Right fielder Alex Rios is confident he'll be in the lineup Sunday against the Astros, but said he could play on his sprained right ankle at any point if necessary.
Washington said Rios would be available to hit -- and if need be play defense -- Friday, but the right-fielder didn't do either. Rios originally sprained the ankle July 19 in Toronto. "I can play on it, but I would rather take a couple of days," Rios said. "We decided to give it a rest to make it feel better, make it 100 percent. I would rather give it a little rest and be 100 percent."
Catcher Geovany Soto was activated from the disabled list Friday and returned to the starting lineup, batting seventh.
Soto went 0-for-3 with a groundout, a strikeout and a flyout before Mike Carp pinch hit for him in the ninth.
• Rangers outfielder Jake Smolinski is expected to be in a walking boot for two to three weeks with a small fracture in his left ankle. He will not come off of the disabled list when he is eligible Wednesday.
• Robinson Chirinos has started a team-high 65 games for the Rangers at catcher.
• Outfielder George Springer is back with the Astros and is still day to day as they evaluate him. Springer has been on the disabled list since July 20 with a left quad strain.
Grace Raynor is an associate reporter for MLB.com
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.