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SEA@HOU: Peacock tallies six strikeouts in outing

The last time Phil Irwin started in the Major Leagues, the pressure got to him.

Irwin's Major League debut came for the Pirates on April 14 of last season against the Reds. He made it 4 2/3 innings while giving up six hits and five runs (four earned) for an ERA of 7.71.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself my first start in my debut and it didn't go very well," Irwin said. "Just trying to relax and be the pitcher that I know I am and not try to be anybody else."

It would be the only Major League start he'd make in 2013. Irwin had ulnar nerve transposition surgery on July 3 of last year. The Rangers claimed Irwin off waivers in May this year, and he's had a successful Minor League stint at Triple-A Round Rock with a 2.41 ERA in seven appearances.

Tuesday will be Irwin's second career Major League start, as Nick Martinez was scratched from the outing with discomfort in his left side.

"Irwin's been throwing the ball really well at Triple-A," general manager Jon Daniels said. "Has got a very good curveball and looking forward to seeing what he's got."

The Rangers will be looking to tie the series after losing the first game against the Astros at home on Monday. The Astros will send Brad Peacock to the mound, and he's been close to turning the corner of late.

In his six starts since May 29, Peacock has given up one run every other outing. If the pattern continues it could be bad news for the Rangers, as Peacock struggled in his last outing, giving up four runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Mariners.

In that start against the Mariners, Peacock had given up three-hits and no runs through the first five innings, before losing his control and giving up four runs in the sixth inning.

Before that start, Peacock hadn't allowed more than three earned runs in six consecutive starts. Still, he's 2-1 with a 3.18 ERA on his last seven starts and has a 3.95 ERA in 12 starts this season overall.

"He's definitely been teetering on getting over that hurdle of really, really turning the corner and going seven, eight innings," manager Bo Porter said. "He's been right there a couple of times. His last outing, he cruised for five innings and ran into a hurdle in the sixth. I really hope that was a learning experience for him and he's able to use that moving forward so when he runs into difficulties again, he's able to slow the game down and make quality pitches to get over that hurdle."

Rangers: Struggling Choice sent down
The Rangers optioned Michael Choice to Triple-A Round Rock and designated Donnie Murphy for assignment.

They recalled right-handed pitcher Roman Mendez and purchased outfielder Jake Smolinski.

Choice was batting just .177 thus far in 2014, and Murphy was hitting .196.

"We're going with the extra reliever most likely just through the All-Star break," Daniels said. "Obviously we've taxed our bullpen pretty heavy here the last few weeks especially in a stretch of 20 in a row without a day off.

"It takes a toll. So we'll get the extra reliever to kind of help spread the workload around a little bit."

Smolinski made his Major League debut Monday, striking out in the seventh inning.

Astros: Martinez saves the bullpen
With the Astros' bullpen having worked 26 2/3 innings in the team's previous nine games, the team called up starter David Martinez from Triple-A late Saturday with hopes he could help them in case they wound up needing someone to eat multiple innings.

Martinez's arrival didn't come too soon. He wound up working three innings Sunday after starter Collin McHugh lasted only four innings when the fingernail on the middle finger of his right finger pulled away from the skin.

"That ended up being a very important move," Porter said. "Had we not had that guy, we could be up against it trying to cover the innings we had to get over. Him giving us the three innings he gave us, it was really huge having him out there saving the rest of the bullpen coming into this series."

Worth noting
• Daniels said that catcher Geovany Soto, who had surgery on his right knee at the conclusion of Spring Training, should be able to rejoin the Rangers in Toronto after the All-Star break if all goes as planned.

• Every Astros player had at least one hit Monday night against the Rangers.

• Jose Altuve broke an Astros record for hits before the All-Star break Monday night. His two hits brought him up to 124 for the season, which is the best in the Majors. He broke Bob Watson's mark of 123 hits in 1973.

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