Texas Rangers at Houston Astros
- The Rangers have won eight consecutive series versus the Astros, winning 19 of 24 games. The last time the Astros won a series versus the Rangers was when they won 2-of-3 from June 24-26, 2008 in Houston.
- The Rangers have won on Opening Day in four consecutive seasons after dropping five consecutive Opening-Day games from 2004-2008.
- The Rangers had a five-game division lead over Oakland with nine games remaining last season, but lost seven of nine, including five of six versus Oakland to lose the division by one game. The Rangers were ousted in the first ever AL Wild Card game by the Baltimore Orioles, 5-1.
- The Astros will be in the American League West in 2013. They are the first team to switch leagues since the Milwaukee Brewers moved from the American League Central to the National League Central in 1998. The Astros come to the AL off back-to-back 106-loss seasons, and the 107 losses in 2012 were a franchise record.
- The Astros have lost six consecutive Opening-Day games, the second-longest active Opening-Day losing streak in baseball (Oakland has lost eight straight openers).
- Ian Kinsler has homered in each of the last two Opening Days and has three Opening-Day home runs in his career (also hit one in 2007). Kinsler's three career Opening-Day home runs are tied for the most in Texas Rangers history (since 1972). Juan Gonzalez and Dean Palmer also have three career Opening-Day home runs as Rangers.
- Second baseman Jose Altuve hit .290 last season and had 33 stolen bases. He was the first Astros infielder to hit .290 and have at least 33 stolen bases since 1998 (2B Craig Biggio - .325 BA, 50 SB).
- Matt Harrison's 18 wins last season were tied for the most in franchise history for a left-handed pitcher (Kenny Rogers won 18 in 2004). This will be Harrison's first Opening-Day assignment and will be the fifth different Opening-Day starting pitcher for the Rangers in the last five years (2009 Kevin Millwood, 2010 Scott Feldman, 2011 C.J. Wilson, 2012 Colby Lewis).
- Since Bud Norris came to the big leagues on July 27, 2009, the Astros have played the Rangers 18 times but Norris has never faced them. Norris is one of just eight pitchers to strike out 150-plus batters in the National League in each of the last three seasons (also Matt Cain, Yovani Gallardo, Cole Hamels, Ian Kennedy, Clayton Kershaw, Mat Latos and Tim Lincecum).
- Yanks, Ellsbury reach $153M, 7-year deal
- ChiSox's Konerko stays for 1 year, $2.5M
- BoSox, C Pierzynski agree to 1-year deal
- Nats get Fister but asked about Scherzer
- Rays get Reds' Hanigan, Arizona's Bell
By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- Alexi Ogando's first full season as a starter included an All-Star appearance and a trip to the World Series.
The Texas Rangers decided to turn him into a reliever a year later.
Back in the rotation, Ogando looks to follow his teammate's near perfect game with a stellar effort of his own and help the Rangers to a series win over the Houston Astros on Wednesday.
Ogando was one of Texas' rising stars in 2011, winning his first seven decisions over 12 starts while compiling a 2.10 ERA. That was a big factor in him being included on the AL's All-Star team before going 4-5 with a 4.48 ERA after the break.
Since his performances waned as the season wore on, Ogando's versatility enabled Texas to move him to the bullpen for the playoffs. The right-hander thrived there, going 2-0 while allowing four earned runs with 15 strikeouts in 13 innings.
The Rangers kept him there in 2012, and he was 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA in 58 games - one start.
Now, he's back in the rotation after going 2-1 with a 3.55 ERA in seven spring training games - five starts - while limiting hitters to a .213 average.
"My command is there," Ogando told the team's official website. "I worked very hard in spring training on the changeup and I think the results showed it paid off. When I wanted to induce a ground ball I used my changeup and the results were good."
He'll make his first start against the Astros after allowing one run with three walks in three innings of relief over two appearances against them.
Ogando may draw some inspiration from Yu Darvish's outstanding season debut Tuesday, when he had a career-high 14 strikeouts while his bid for a perfect game was broken up by Marwin Gonzalez's single with two outs in the ninth of a 7-0 victory.
"When I tell you we threw everything, we threw everything," said new Texas catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who caught Philip Humber's perfect game for the White Sox on April 21.
He'll face Humber this time since the right-hander is slated to make his Astros debut after being acquired off waivers during the offseason following two years with Chicago. Despite the perfect game, Humber went on to finish last season at 5-5 with a 6.44 ERA in 26 games, and he was demoted to the bullpen in August after 16 starts.
He was impressive in six spring games, however, going 2-2 with a 1.73 ERA and a .152 opponent batting average in a team-high 26 innings.
"I don't think I could've asked for a better spring training. As far as how I threw the ball and the results I got," Humber said. "I couldn't be in a better position going into the season, but it's one day at a time. I feel healthy. I feel like I got all my pitches where I want them, for the most part. I'm excited for the season, and ready to get going."
Humber won his only career start against the Rangers on July 28, yielding one run and four hits in six innings of a 5-2 victory.
He'll have to contend with former Astro Lance Berkman, who is 5 for 8 in this series and drove in two runs Tuesday. A designated hitter through his first two games with the Rangers, Berkman has a 14-game hitting streak at Minute Maid Park, batting .491 with six homers and 22 RBIs.
Elvis Andrus tripled on two of his three hits Tuesday, getting an RBI while scoring a run after going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in a season-opening 8-2 loss Sunday. The shortstop is hitting .429 over his last nine meetings with the Astros.
Updated April 3, 2013