Extra Bases: Improved Astros await

BOSTON -- On the heels of a 2-4 trip through Tampa Bay and Boston, the Texas Rangers will be happy to return home Friday night. If history is any indication of performance, they'll be even happier to see the Houston Astros waiting for them as their opponent.

In their first year as a member of the American League West, the Astros were pounded by the Rangers, who won 17 of 19 meetings against Houston and held a 126-69 advantage in runs. However, manager Ron Washington acknowledged Wednesday the Astros are better than they were last season.

"Another year older," Washington said. "I think they got a real good leader in Bo [Porter]. I think the mistakes that they may have made last year, they won't make as many."

The Astros finished last year 51-111, their third straight 100-loss season and worst of them all. The team is off to a 3-6 start this season, with two of their wins earned by Friday's starter Scott Feldman. Feldman has given up only one run in his first two starts, facing the New York Yankees on Opening Day and the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.

"They're an improved team," Washington said. "How improved? I guess we just have to wait and see, but I don't think they're going to be anybody's doormat. You better come with your best game."

Darvish reflects: With Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish slated to square off against Feldman on Friday night in the first game of the Rangers' 10-game homestand, the right-hander was asked if he ever thinks back to his first start against the Astros last year.

"I don't remember much, but I don’t think I was in perfect condition," Darvis said through an interpreter. "I think I was as usual."

As usual? Darvish came one out away from the 24th perfect game in major league history, striking out 14 in what could only be described as a domination of the Astros lineup. It might be as usual for a pitcher of Darvish's caliber, but for many others that's a start many can't even dream of.

This time, Darvish will be coming off a strong start against the Tampa Bay Rays, throwing seven scoreless innings and getting his first win of the season. Darvish admitted after the start that he felt some fatigue but that he feels fine now and is excited to make his first start of the season at Globe Life Park.

"I look forward to starting in my home stadium in front of the stadium that has [the] most Texas fans," Darvish said.