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MEX@TEX: Darvish fans seven over four shutout frames

The Rangers have been at or near the top of the American League West the last few years, and now the Houston Astros are in the same division and looking to accomplish a similar goal.

And when the two clubs follow up Sunday night's 2013 lid-lifter on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park, with Yu Darvish of the Rangers facing Astros starter Lucas Harrell, it will be more than the typical intrastate rivalry and "Silver Boot Trophy" competition that the clubs are used to from Interleague Play in seasons past.

But the Rangers aren't looking at this as a rivalry. Not yet, at least.

"I don't think you can really force a rivalry," Rangers outfielder David Murphy said. "I think it has to come naturally. But the more we play them within our division, the stronger the rivalry will become."

Rangers designated hitter Lance Berkman, the longtime former Astros slugger, agreed with that sentiment.

"Until the teams get more equitable on the field in terms of aspirations, when that happens, that will get the rivalry going," Berkman said. "The Astros and the Cardinals had a great rivalry, but it was always clean. There was never any bloodbaths or anything like that. I'd like to see that kind of rivalry develop between the Rangers and the Astros."

For the Astros on Tuesday, it will be up to Harrell to make a good first impression, and he is coming off a very solid 2012 campaign in which he went 11-11 with a 3.76 ERA in 32 starts and was named the team's Pitcher of the Year.

"I'm excited," Harrell said. "My arm feels good. My legs are feeling good again."

One thing Harrell said he will not do is be intimidated by Darvish, who won 16 games and struck out 221 batters last year.

"The way I look at it, I'm not pitching against Yu Darvish, I'm pitching against the Rangers," Harrell said. "He doesn't  hit, so I have to get out all the other guys -- Nelson Cruz, [Ian] Kinsler, [Elvis] Andrus.

"I look at it more like I'm facing their lineup. They've got a good lineup, and I need to definitely be on my game."

Rangers: Darvish ready to roll
Darvish, who enjoyed a fantastic rookie season in 2012 and finished off the year by going 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA in his final eight outings (and 3-0 with a 1.87 ERA in his last five games), was brilliant this spring, pitching to a 1.98 ERA in four Cactus League starts, while holding opponents to a .167 batting average. He faced the Astros once last year, beating Houston on June 15 in Arlington with eight innings of two-run, 11-strikeout ball. This will be his first start at Minute Maid Park.

• Second baseman Kinsler went hitless against Houston on Sunday night and snapped a streak of two years with Opening Day home runs. He has three career Opening Day homers (2007, '11, '12), which ties him with Juan Gonzalez and Dean Palmer for the Rangers record.

• The Rangers opened the season with an 11-man pitching staff because they have two off-days this week and a fifth starter will not be needed until late in the club's first homestand next week. In 2012, the Rangers' staff compiled a 3.99 ERA, which ranked seventh in the AL.

Astros: Crane confident about TV
Team owner Jim Crane said he's optimistic about Astros games soon being available to a majority of homes within the Houston TV market. Right now, carriers such as DirecTV and Dish Network are without Astros coverage.

"I think something will get done," Crane said. "We want the fans to watch the games, we're concerned about it. What we told people is we've to get a good deal for the long-term value of the team, which is the revenue base we need to support the team to compete with the Rangers and Angels and those sorts of people. Getting a good TV deal is important, so we hope it goes off on time, but if it doesn't, I think you'll see something shortly after that."

• First baseman Carlos Pena and second baseman Jose Altuve are a combined 0-for-7 with four strikeouts against Darvish, but Justin Maxwell, Brett Wallace and Jason Castro are a combined 4-for-9 with a double, a home run (by Maxwell) and an RBI.

Worth noting
• Berkman had two hits on Sunday and has an active 13-game hit streak at Minute Maid Park, his second-longest hit streak at this facility (14 games from Aug. 12-Sept. 9, 2008) He has hit safely in all 10 games as an opponent in this park and is its all-time leader in hits (841), homers (156), runs (509), doubles (191), and RBIs (537).

• Seven Astros appeared on their first Opening Day roster on Sunday night: outfielders Brandon Barnes, Maxwell and Chris Carter, infielder Matt Dominguez, catcher Carlos Corporan, left-handed pitcher Xavier Cedeno and right-handed pitcher Brad Peacock. Comments