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Darvish crucial to Rangers' postseason aspirations

The Rangers dominated the Astros last season, winning 17 of 19 games against a team that went 51-111 in manager Bo Porter's first year on the job. That matched the most wins against a single opponent since the divisional era began in 1969.

The Rangers have won 11 straight and are 36-7 against the Astros since 2009. They won the last 14 individual series. As far as the Silver Boot Trophy, the Rangers have had possession of it for the last seven years.

But Rangers manager Ron Washington warned that the Astros aren't going to roll over so easily this season. The Rangers return home to open a three-game series with the Astros on Friday night.

"They're a better team," Washington said. "They are another year older and they've got a real good leader in Bo Porter. The mistakes they might have made last year, they won't make as many this season. They will be able to hold on to games more than last year. They lost a lot of ballgames in the seventh inning on. I think they will be able to hold on to those leads because they've added some experience in the bullpen.

"They are not going to be anybody's doormat. You've got to bring your best game."

Texas does have Yu Darvish pitching Friday night, and he was tough on Houston last season, going 3-1 with a 2.83 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 35 innings. The Astros hit just .126 off him and he twice came close to pitching a no-hitter against them.

Darvish faced the Astros on April 2 in his first start of the 2013 season and retired 26 straight hitters. He was one out away from a perfect game when Marwin Gonzalez ended the bid with a single up the middle. On Aug. 12, Darvish had a no-hitter going into the eighth before Carlos Corporan hit a one-out home run.

This will be Darvish's first start at home this season. Over the past two seasons, he is 17-8 with a 3.20 ERA in 33 starts in Arlington.

"I am looking forward to pitching in my home stadium and looking forward to a stadium that has mostly Rangers fans," Darvish said.

But the Rangers could be without Adrian Beltre, who is dealing with a tight left quad muscle and is questionable for Friday night. Beltre, who could end up on the disabled list, hit .361 with six home runs and 15 RBI against the Astros last season.

The Astros will pitch Scott Feldman, the former Ranger who signed a three-year deal as a free agent with Houston in the offseason. He is 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA in his first two starts. He is 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA in two starts against the Rangers since leaving as a free agent after the 2012 season. Feldman pitched for Texas from 2005-12, winning a career-high 17 games in 2009. He was the Rangers' Opening Day starter in 2010 before being sidetracked by a knee injury.

Rangers: Beltre may land on DL
Texas will find out by Friday if Beltre needs to go on the disabled list with a strained left quad muscle. The Rangers will likely have to make a roster move Saturday when they call up pitcher Colby Lewis to start against the Astros.

The Rangers called up Kevin Kouzmanoff on Wednesday in preparation to play regularly while Beltre is out. If Beltre doesn't go on the disabled list, the Rangers would have an extra bench player. Jim Adduci and Michael Choice are the only ones with options. Kouzmanoff, Donnie Murphy and Josh Wilson would all have to be sent through outright waivers before being sent to the Minors.

Astros: Dominguez has gotten to Darvish
Astros infielder Matt Dominguez has 28 career home runs, including three off Darvish. He does not have more than one home run off any other pitcher. The three home runs are his only hits in 11 at-bats against Darvish and he has struck out five times.

Dominguez only has one other home run in 52 at-bats against all other Rangers pitchers and that was off of Travis Blackley last season. He has a career .206 average against Texas.

Worth noting
• Friday's marks the 20th anniversary of the first game at what was known back then as the Ballpark in Arlington. To mark the occasion, former Arlington Mayor Richard Greene will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

• The Astros are expected to get reliever Matt Albers back Friday. He has been on paternity leave while his wife gave birth to their son, Mason James Albers, on Tuesday.

• Astros outfielder Dexter Fowler is back in the flow after missing four games this week with a stomach virus.

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