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Astros aim to walk over Rangers again

Sat May 15 7:36am ET

Plate discipline can manifest in several forms, and for the Houston Astros this season, their ability to avoid the strikeout and put the ball in play is foundational to their offensive exploits.

The Astros enters Saturday's home game against the Texas Rangers with the fewest strikeouts in the American League, striking out 20.8 percent of the time, but that success didn't necessarily correlate to an exceptional ability to work walks from opposing pitchers. Houston batters have walked 123 times -- 52 fewer walks than the MLB-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

So the results from Friday's game against the Rangers proved moderately surprising.

The Astros drew a season-high eight walks in their 10-4 victory over Texas. Yuli Gurriel and Carlos Correa combined for five walks in the middle of the order while Myles Straw and Martin Maldonado, batting eighth and ninth, both worked bases-loaded walks in the third inning.

"That's pretty impressive to have more walks than strikeouts," Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker said of Gurriel, who has 20 walks against 19 strikeouts this season. "And we kind of carry that throughout the whole lineup.

"That's kind of one of the advantages of having good strike-zone discipline with our team."

Right-hander Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.60 ERA) will take the mound Saturday as the Astros attempt to clinch the series. Garcia is searching for his first career victory in what will be his seventh career start and 13th appearance. He allowed three runs and five hits with seven strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings against the Los Angeles Angels on May 10 but did not factor into the decision in the Astros' 5-4 loss. Garcia will take his fourth turn in the rotation in place of right-hander Jake Odorizzi, who landed on the 10-day injured list on April 26 with a right pronator muscle strain.

Garcia has a 5.40 ERA in two career appearances against Texas without recording a decision.

Right-hander Dane Dunning (2-2, 3.78 ERA) will get the start for the Rangers. He has not allowed a home run since surrendering a blast to Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette in the first inning of his Texas debut on April 6. Dunning has posted a 6.38 ERA over his past four starts but fanned a career-high 10 batters in Texas' 10-2 win over the Seattle Mariners on May 9. Saturday will mark his first career appearance against the Astros.

The Rangers are banking on Dunning and veteran right-hander Kyle Gibson, Texas' scheduled starter for the series finale Sunday, doing a superior job of commanding the strike zone from a pitching perspective. Their passive approach to pitching Friday proved detrimental.

"We've got to go right after them," Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. "I'm not shy about saying that all year. We've got two of our best guys that have done pretty well this year in Dunning and Gibby. It's on them. It's not pressure; go after these guys. If they hit you they hit you. If you can execute pitches in the zone, they have holes, they have weaknesses. I don't like giving guys too much credit, especially when we're pitching against them."

--Field Level Media

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