Right-hander Scott Baker takes the hill at Houston's Minute Maid Park for the Rangers on Friday night, making his second start since Yu Darvish went on the disabled list with mild inflammation in his right elbow.
Baker allowed one run in five innings in a 3-1 win over Kansas City on Sunday. It was his fifth start of the season but first since July 13; this will be the first time he has made back-to-back starts since May 23 and 27.
Baker threw 71 pitches against the Royals but would like to go deeper in this game, the second of four with the Astros.
"I feel good," Baker said. "I think that outing allowed me to extend myself a little more, and it's tough not throwing that amount of pitches and that amount of innings for basically a month, so it's hard to keep that endurance. But you do the best you can. I felt good and I felt good afterward."
Baker said the key is to be efficient.
"It's just the nature of the situation," he said. "You have less pitches than a normal starter would. If you want to factor into a decision or give your team a chance to win, you have to be efficient, you have no choice. Get the ball over and take control of the strike zone and let the defense work. I don't see that being any different in this next start."
The Astros will go with left-hander Brett Oberholtzer, who has allowed three runs or fewer in seven of his last eight starts. Houston is 6-2 in those games.
Over his last 53 innings, Oberholtzer has struck out 31 while walking just six. Most recently, he gave up three runs to Cleveland over 6 2/3 innings.
"Obie did a good job. He did a good job battling and had us right there in the ballgame," Astros manager Bo Porter said after that game, a 3-1 Astros loss. "Again, this guy continues to take the ball and go to the mound and give us an opportunity to win."
Rangers: Robertson, Martin sharing leadoff role
With Shin-Soo Choo out for the season, manager Ron Washington is giving Leonys Martin another chance to hit leadoff. But only against right-handers.
On Friday, Daniel Robertson will bat leadoff against the southpaw Oberholtzer. Robertson, who didn't start on Thursday, is hitting .302 with a .383 on-base percentage in 19 games in the leadoff spot.
Martin has been given multiple chances to be the leadoff hitter, but he needs to show more patience and selectivity. Too many times he gets away from that and starts swinging indiscriminately.
"If Martin swings at strikes, he has tremendous hand-eye coordination," Washington said. "That's where he needs to get to: trust he can see it and trust he can hit it. He has his best days when he swings at strikes."
Astros: Carter keeps mashing
Chris Carter has been red-hot -- not just lately, but over a span of nearly two months.
Entering Thursday, Carter was leading the Major Leagues in home runs (20), slugging (.667) and RBIs (48) since July 1, and he has a chance to become only the fourth player in Astros history to reach 40 homers. He has 33, which is tied for second in the American League behind Nelson Cruz (34).
"When you look at his first couple of months," said Porter, "if you just put half of what he's doing right now in those two months, you're looking at 43, 44 home runs and 120 some-odd RBIs and a guy who's hitting .265, .270, and now you're talking about an MVP candidate. This guy, it's all coming together, and we're seeing the real player."
• Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre is hitting .340 against left-handers this season. The highest average by a Rangers hitter against lefties in one season is .376, recorded by Juan Gonzalez in 1996.
• Astros outfielder Robbie Grossman missed Thursday's game after twisting his left ankle on Wednesday, and he is day to day.
Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.