Miles Mikolas has made one start in a Rangers uniform, and he's hoping to duplicate the first five innings of that outing. The sixth inning he can do without.
After replacing Joe Saunders in the rotation in Baltimore on Wednesday, Mikolas allowed one run in five innings. He went back for the sixth, retired the leadoff hitter, then walked the next two batters. He exited with the Rangers holding a three-run lead, but the Orioles rallied for a 6-4 win.
"I just need to do what I did for five innings in my first start, but do it for six or seven innings," Mikolas said. "I threw a lot of strikes, attacked the zone early and made good pitches when I got behind in the count."
Still, that first start was a confidence boost for a player who began the season as a reliever in Triple-A before being switched to the rotation at the end of May.
"Definitely, especially going into Baltimore with the really good hitters they have in their lineup," Mikolas said. "It feels good to have five solid innings. We had a good game plan, so I need to stick with it and be successful again."
The Rangers are 3-3 against the Astros this season but 42-13 against them since the start of the 2008 season, including a 21-6 mark in Arlington. Meanwhile, the Astros will try to break a seven-game losing streak that ties their season high on Monday as they return to Texas by sending right-hander Jarred Cosart to the mound.
Cosart had won four consecutive starts before getting roughed up Tuesday against Seattle when he allowed six runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. Against the AL West this season, he's 0-5 with a 6.75 ERA in seven starts. In his career, he's 0-6 with a 4.74 ERA in 11 starts against AL West teams, so he's looking for his first career win vs. the AL West.
"It's the best division in baseball," Cosart said. "It's pretty much self-explanatory if you look at the lineups of the top three teams. You're just going out there trying to keep the team in the game. In this division, it's going to be hard to get wins regardless, because the way the pitchers are throwing out there and the hitters they have at the plate. So you do your best to keep you in the game. I had a couple of tough losses going to back to last year, the Texas game and Seattle. It's nature of the beast, and it's by far the toughest division in baseball."
Rangers: Time to win at home
The Rangers will end the season's first half with a seven-game homestand against the Astros and Angels. They would like to use this time in Arlington as a springboard for momentum into the second half.
But they have to start winning there. They have lost eight of 11 and 20 of their last 29 at Globe Life Park and are 18-23 this season. They haven't finished a season under .500 at home since 2008 and were 247-159 in Arlington from 2009-13.
"You always need momentum," manager Ron Washington said. "We should have gotten momentum in Baltimore last week. We should have gotten momentum before we got to Baltimore. And before that. But when we go home, we do need to play."
Astros: Struggling Santana sent down
The Astros sent struggling rookie outfielder Domingo Santana to Triple-A Oklahoma City late Saturday after he went 0-for-13 with 11 strikeouts in four games since being called up last week. The team, needing another arm in its beleaguered bullpen, called up right-hander David Martinez from Oklahoma City to be used in long relief.
Santana, the team's No. 7-ranked prospect, was hitting .304 with 13 homers and 52 RBIs in 84 games for the RedHawks when he was called up Tuesday to replace Dexter Fowler, who was placed on the disabled list.
"It was good to get him here and experience Major League pitching," manager Bo Porter said Sunday. "The struggles in which he went through will help him as he moves forward. I talked to him after the game and told him, 'Hitting in the Minor Leagues, as you found out real quickly, it's different there.'
"Pitchers have the ability to throw four pitches in different counts [in the Major Leagues], and that's why it's so important from a mechanical standpoint to be in a good position to hit from your posture and setup. That will help him moving forward."
• Washington, with the exception of the pitcher, used the same lineup on Saturday and Sunday. That ended a streak of 20 games with 20 different lineups.
Said Washington: "I have been trying to engage everybody."
• Jose Altuve finished Sunday with 122 hits, which leads the Majors, and was leading the AL with a .337 average and 38 steals. The only Astros player to have more hits prior to the All-Star break is Bob Watson with 123 in 1973.
• Saunders, designated for assignment by the Rangers on Wednesday, cleared waivers on Sunday and is now a free agent.
Mike Vernon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.