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TEX@HOU: Garza fans eight over seven strong frames

Rangers manager Ron Washington knows that history repeats itself. As such, he's confident that while Matt Garza may not shut out the Astros on Monday night, he's certain the pitcher will put the club in position to win the game. Texas is 4-1 in Garza's last five starts, although the pitcher has allowed four runs in each of his last three outings.

"He can give up four runs and we'll still win," Washington said. "He just keeps us in ballgames."

Washington's confidence may stem from his team's relative success against Houston. In 13 contests with the Astros this season, the Rangers have won 11 and are just four wins away from their season record for most wins against a team (15-4 against Seattle in 2011).

However, this is not the same Astros team that the Rangers faced earlier in the year, and have played well during this nine-game road trip, which concludes with three games in Arlington.

Houston had lost 10 of 11 games before taking two of three from the A's in Oakland early in the week and winning this weekend's three-game series against the Angels, with a 6-5 nailbiting loss in extra innings Saturday. Before winning those two road series, Houston hadn't won a series since taking two of three from Milwaukee in a June 18-20 set.

"I think these guys have done a tremendous job," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "Just look at the number of games we've been in position to win and haven't been able to put up as many wins as we'd like from an organizational standpoint. The staff and players come each and every day ready to play, they give maximum effort and the preparation is there."

Lucas Harrell, who will take the mound for the Astros, began the year in the rotation and made 20 starts before being moved to the bullpen. Harrell hasn't started since throwing 5 1/3 innings in a spot start at Baltimore on July 30. He was moved from the rotation after his July 5 start at Texas. As a starter this year, he's 5-10 with a 5.12 ERA. In 20 starts, he's allowed two or fewer runs 11 times.

"He's been throwing the ball well out of the 'pen and we knew we had that option if we were forced to use Jordan [Lyles] today, which the game dictated we had to use him. We knew we had Harrell, who will be coming back on his fourth day [he threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings Thursday in Oakland]."

Astros: Lyles skips start after relief appearance
Lyles was scheduled to start Monday, but pitched 2 1/3 innings out of the bullpen in Sunday's win. Lyles allowed two runs on two hits and three walks while striking out a pair.

In Lyles' previous start, he broke an eight-start winless streak Tuesday in Oakland, pitching seven innings and holding the A's to five hits and one run. In those eight starts, he was 0-5 with an 8.49 ERA, allowing 62 hits in 41 1/3 innings.

Rangers: Pinch-hitting provides boost
Pitchers hoping to get a break from the top of the potent Texas lineup late in games have another thing coming. There is no respite against the Rangers even at the bottom of the order, because the club has been punishing opponents with clutch pinch-hitting recently.

After going 1-for-3 on Saturday night, Rangers pinch-hitters were batting .286 on the season, the second-highest in the American League. They led the AL with a .368 on-base percentage.

"Better bench, more experience and they're getting opportunities," Washington said. "In the past we didn't have too many guys to pinch-hit for in our lineup. They were the best we had. We haven't had this bench since we've been here. Nobody is complaining about playing time, so it helps to move people around and give everybody a chance."

Worth noting
• The Astros have the youngest team in baseball by a full year. Houston's average player age in 25.6, while the second-youngest team is Atlanta with an average age of 26.7.

• The Rangers are 15-4 in their last 19 contests, and are 12-4 in August.

• Texas is 38-16 in AL West games in 2013, the best record by a team against its division rivals in the Majors.

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