Astros, Keuchel seek answers in finale vs. Texas

Astros, Keuchel seek answers in finale vs. Texas

Andrew Cashner and Dallas Keuchel are trending in different directions as the two take the mound in the series finale of this iteration of the Silver Boot Series on Sunday at Globe Life Park, the last time these division rivals will meet in Arlington until the end of September.

Cashner is riding a streak of three consecutive wins, during which he holds a 2.37 ERA and has allowed opponents to bat .217. He was scratched from his last start Tuesday in New York after he awoke with neck stiffness. He'll be pitching for the first time since Aug. 2 and will look to lead the Rangers to a sweep and their fourth straight victory.

Keuchel had been dealing with neck problems as well. He missed eight weeks with neck discomfort and has made three starts since coming off the disabled list, but he's struggled so far in his return.

In those starts, Keuchel is 0-2 with a 10.50 ERA, a drastic difference from the dominant pitcher who held a 1.94 ERA in 12 starts prior. However, Keuchel said he's felt noticeably better in the days since his last appearance compared to the days in between his first three starts since returning.

"This is probably the best three or four days in between [starts] since the first couple of months," he said. "I have no doubt tomorrow's going to be a lot better than the first three."

The Astros would certainly welcome a return to form from Keuchel. They've lost five straight games, and Houston starters are 2-8 with a 6.62 ERA in their last 16 games.

Things to know about this game

• Cashner's 2.20 ERA since the start of July is the fifth-best in the American League over that span. Only James Paxton (1.92), Sonny Gray (1.98), Corey Kluber (2.06) and Chris Sale (2.08) rank higher.

• Keuchel has faced the Rangers once this year, throwing six scoreless innings while allowing just three hits at Globe Life Park on June 2. In three starts against the Astros this season, Cashner is 0-3 with a 6.19 ERA.

• Five Rangers have faced Keuchel at least 20 times, and only three of them have batting averages over .100 against him. Rougned Odor and Delino DeShields hold .074 and .095 averages against the lefty, respectively.

Sam Butler is a reporter for MLB.com based in Texas. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.