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BOS@TEX: Ogando fans four over six strong innings

The Astros and Rangers share a state and now a division, but the two franchises don't have much else in common these days.

The Rangers, who have been to two of the past three World Series, once again lead the American League West. The Astros are firmly entrenched in a rebuilding phase.

So it follows that Texas is 16-4 against Houston since the beginning of the 2010 season, including taking two out of three at Minute Maid Park to begin '13. The teams will meet for another three-game set in Houston, starting on Friday night, with the Rangers' Alexi Ogando facing off against the Astros' Dallas Keuchel.

"They're young, they're inexperienced and they're learning on the job," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of the Astros, who are 10-25 through Wednesday. "What you see comes from learning on the job at the Major League level. Sometimes you have to take a whipping. I was on the Twins in 1981-82 when we took a whipping. Five years later, that group in 1987 won the World Series."

The Astros just took two of three from the Angels following a six-game losing streak, winning back-to-back games for only the third time this year. Washington believes the franchise is headed in the right direction.

"They know the process and they believe in their kids," he said. "They're going with the kids and staying with the process. They're not panicking and they don't care what other people are saying. That's what you've got to do. They're doing what they need to be doing. They know the situation they are in. It's no secret. But you read things out of Houston, it's all positive. That's a good thing."

After a win at Milwaukee on Wednesday, the Rangers are 1-2 on their current four-city, nine-game road trip.

They will hand the ball to Ogando, who tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings at Houston on April 3, giving up four hits, walking one and striking out 10. The right-hander (3-2, 3.08 ERA) has not notched more than five strikeouts in any of his six starts since then, but he owns a 2.84 ERA over his past three outings and held the Red Sox to one run in six innings on Saturday.

Keuchel (0-1, 4.96 ERA) will be making his first start of the season after six appearances out of the bullpen. Coincidentally, the lefty's first start of last year -- and the first of his career -- also came against the Rangers. On June 17 in Arlington, he gave up one run on four hits over five innings.

Keuchel went 3-8 with a 5.27 ERA in 16 starts a year ago, but with Houston struggling to find quality starting pitching, he will get another shot at the role.

"I'm a starter at heart," Keuchel said. "If my role is in the bullpen, then it's in the bullpen. I'm going to try to pitch to the best of my ability. Friday is going to be no different."

Rangers: Happy to see you
Several Rangers have enjoyed playing against the team's in-state rival over the years. Chief among them is former Astros star Lance Berkman, who owns a .460/.526/.860 batting line against Houston, with five home runs and 18 RBIs. During a 15-game Minute Maid Park hitting streak that goes back to his final three contests with the Astros in 2010, Berkman is hitting .491 with six homers and 23 RBIs. He also has drawn 10 walks over that span, with a .567 on-base percentage and .912 slugging percentage.

"I like hitting there," Berkman said. "It's definitely a comfortable place for me. I spent the majority of my career there, so when I go back, I feel right at home."

Ian Kinsler is hitting .327 with 10 home runs and 25 RBIs in 41 games against the Astros, and his .624 slugging percentage is his highest against any AL club. His 45 runs scored are the 14th most by an active player against Houston, but he is the only one among the top 50 with more runs scored than games played.

Among the other Rangers who have produced against the Astros are Houston area-native David Murphy (.333, five homers, 15 RBIs), Nelson Cruz (.318, eight homers, 23 RBIs) and Elvis Andrus (.326).

Astros: Humber back in relief
• With Keuchel and Erik Bedard joining the rotation, right-hander Philip Humber was informed on Wednesday by manager Bo Porter that he was being moved to the bullpen. Humber is 0-7 with an 8.82 ERA in seven starts, including a 16.20 ERA over his past four.

In his career, Humber has made 36 of his 87 appearances as a reliever, posting a 5.46 ERA. He gave up 13 runs in 14 innings over 10 relief appearances for the White Sox last year, but on Thursday, he struck out three in 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

"For me, it's a matter of getting right and getting more opportunities to get in there," he said. "I need to get better. That's the main thing, that's what I'm focused on, wherever I'm at -- rotation or bullpen. I've got to pitch better and I'm not satisfied with what I've done so far, so I'll keep working at it."

• Outfielder Jimmy Paredes went 3-for-8 with two doubles and two RBIs in his first two games after being recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he was hitting .366. Paredes, who batted .189 in 24 big league games last year, was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Thursday.

Worth noting
• Bud Norris' eight-inning outing on Wednesday was the first this season by an Astros starter to last longer than seven frames. Norris has three of the team's five starts that have gone at least seven innings.

• The Rangers stopped a two-game skid on Wednesday and still have not lost three games in a row this season.

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