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Astros riding Pence's hot bat

Astros riding Pence's hot bat

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HOUSTON -- Hunter Pence is having the finest month of his career in May.

The Astros' young right fielder is hitting .414 with five doubles, two triples, one home run, 15 runs scored and nine RBIs this month. He attributes his breakout month to his ability to slow the game down and adjust to what pitchers are trying to do to him.

"The more you prepare and start to understand what pitchers are doing to you, the more you work at shortening up the holes you have," Pence said. "I've been able to really slow the game down and adjust and continue to have a good approach. The more pitches you see, the more you understand what's happening and get a better feel."

His average in May is among the best in all of the National League, and he will look to improve on his success at the plate against the Rangers on Saturday, a game that will be broadcast on FOX by Josh Lewin, Eric Karros and Chris Rose.

Pence grew up watching and rooting for the Rangers in Fort Worth, Texas. One of his favorites to watch as a kid was none other than his current teammate, Ivan Rodriguez.

"Pudge was one of my favorites, too," Pence said. "I told him he was one of my favorite players growing up and that I have been watching him since I was about 6 years old."

Pence has had good career success against his childhood team. In 12 games in the Lone Star Series, he has batted .333 with seven RBIs, and he admits that while every series is important, he looks forward to this one.

"To me, this series is always an exciting series and you just have to go out there and enjoy it," he said.

On Wednesday, manager Cecil Cooper made two minor adjustments to his lineup, one of which was flip-flopping Pence and Miguel Tejada in the order. In hopes of getting a spark in the middle of his lineup, Cooper moved Pence up to the five-hole and dropped Tejada to the six-spot. Through just three games, the move has paid dividends.

Pence is 5-for-11 with a home run and four RBIs in the two games since the switch, and Tejada has fared just as well, going 5-for-12 with two home runs and three RBIs.

"I like Hunter anywhere in my lineup," Cooper said. "He's a very aggressive young man, he swings the bat well. He has done it pretty much all year. I like him hitting fifth, I like him hitting three, I like him hitting sixth, I just like him anywhere in my lineup. If he's in my lineup every day, I'm a happy man."

Pitching matchup
HOU: RHP Brian Moehler (1-2, 7.71 ERA)
Moehler allowed three runs over five innings while facing the Cubs in his last outing, earning his first win of the season. The veteran right-hander has allowed five runs over three starts since returning from the disabled list. Moehler made one start against the Rangers last year, earning the win after holding Texas to one run over 6 1/3 innings. In his career, he's 6-4 with a 4.63 ERA over 12 games vs. Texas.

TEX: RHP Scott Feldman (2-0, 4.04 ERA)
Feldman is 2-0 with a 2.17 ERA as a starter, with both victories coming on the road. He pitched six scoreless innings in the Rangers' 3-0 victory over the Angels on Sunday. He has now made 30 Major League starts in the past two years and is 8-8 with a 4.67 ERA in that role. He has a 5.79 ERA in five career games against the Astros without a decision. As a hitter playing under National League rules, he is 1-for-3, with a single last year against the Mets.

Tidbits
Brandon Backe will make his seventh and final rehab start on Saturday in Red Rock. He threw eight scoreless frames in his last rehab start for Double-A Corpus Christi on Monday. ... Jose Valverde will be back with the team Saturday after flying to Miami on Wednesday to seek a second opinion on the right calf strain that has sidelined him since April 27.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FOX

On radio
• KTRH 740, KLAT 1010 (Español)

Up next
• Sunday: Astros (Mike Hampton, 2-3, 5.23) vs. Rangers (Brandon McCarthy, 3-2, 5.60), 1:05 p.m. CT
• Monday: Astros (Wandy Rodriguez, 5-2, 1.83) at Reds (Aaron Harang, 4-4, 3.19), 12:10 p.m. CT
• Tuesday: Astros (Roy Oswalt, 1-2, 4.47) at Reds (TBD), 6:10 p.m. CT

Jason Grodsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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