The three-game set between the Rangers and Astros concludes Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park. The Astros have defeated the Rangers seven straight times, so Texas right-hander Nick Martinez will try to record his second Major League win in an attempt to salvage at least one game for his team in Houston.
In his last outing on Monday, Martinez was given a 3-0 lead, but allowed the White Sox to tie the game by the time he left in the sixth inning. Both runners he left behind scored and he was ultimately the victim of a rain-shortened 5-3 loss.
Since returning from the disabled list on July 22, Martinez has made three starts and allowed 11 earned runs in 16 innings (6.19 ERA).
The 24-year-old rookie has a 1-8 record and a 5.31 ERA, but manager Ron Washington refuses to dwell on the negative.
"We just talk about what you have to do to continue to get better and get consistent," Washington said. "Even talking about it is not the answer because he has to go out there and apply. If we talked about win-loss record and ERA it would get a lot of guys out of here. They [would be] gone."
Sunday's start will be Martinez's 15th of the season. He appeared twice in relief in the Rangers' earlier series in Houston when he allowed one earned run in three innings and took a loss.
Astros starter Dallas Keuchel, meanwhile, has come into his own recently. He has allowed one earned run or less in each of his last three starts, posting a 0.78 ERA in that span.
When he last took the mound on Tuesday, the Phillies collected five hits and a run in seven innings. The left-hander leads the Majors by a wide margin with a 3.33 ground ball-to-fly ball ratio.
The progress Keuchel has made since posting a 9-18 record and 5.20 ERA from 2012-13 has impressed Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow. He even said he wouldn't be surprised if Keuchel factored into yearly contention for Cy Young awards or All-Star games.
"He's come a long way," Luhnow said. "I knew based on what he had done last year he deserved to be in this rotation, so did [manager Bo Porter] and [pitching coach Brent Strom]. He has emerged as one of the top pitchers in the American League. … I think Keuchel has a lot of good years of pitching ahead of him."
Astros: Altuve expected back in lineup
All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve, who left Friday's game after five innings with neck discomfort and didn't start on Saturday, should return to the lineup for Sunday's series finale.
Saturday marked only the fifth game this year Altuve wasn't in the lineup.
Altuve, who leads the Major Leagues in hits (158) and multi-hit games (48) and leads the AL with 45 steals, said he wasn't quite 100 percent but he felt much better Saturday.
"Obviously, he's a little sore from the discomfort, but he's actually better than he was last night so we're going to give him the day, and hopefully by tomorrow it's behind him," manager Bo Porter said.
Rangers: Rios returns from sprained ankle
After missing the first two games of the series with a sprained right ankle, right fielder Alex Rios will be in Sunday's lineup. He is 5-for-15 against Keuchel, including two doubles, two RBIs and a walk.
"He's playing tomorrow. No questions about it," said Washington. "He told you my thoughts before I even thought it. Definitely tomorrow. Just giving it a rest."
In his last 10 games, Rios hit .231 with one extra-base hit and two RBIs. He struck out seven times.
Maria Torres is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.