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Rangers send Beltre, Darvish to All-Star Game

In terms of the schedule, this, according to Astros left-handed pitcher Dallas Keuchel, is one of the two most important starts he'll throw this year.

Never mind the fact that Keuchel is in the running for the All-Star Game Final Vote, this is a chance for the Astros to sweep their next-to-last series before the All-Star break.

Wednesday night's outing will be Keuchel's last start before the break as well, and he'll be trying to break out of a three-game skid, in which he's gone 0-2 with a 6.50 ERA in his last three starts. He gave up a career-high 13 hits in his previous outing Friday against the Angels.

"The two most important starts of the year are before the All-Star break and the last start of the year," Keuchel said. "Last year, I pitched here and I was going real well and hit a brick wall in the fifth and it left a sour taste in my mouth at the end of last year. That was one thing I was trying to work on is finish strong."

He'll be facing Yu Darvish, who has a reputation for owning the Astros. Darvish is 4-1 with a 2.29 ERA against them in seven starts. In four of those, he's allowed two runs or fewer and pitched at least eight innings.

The Astros may come at a good time for Darvish as the All-Star pitcher is 1-2 with a 4.05 ERA in his last four starts.

On the season, however, Darvish is 8-4 with 134 strikeouts, 39 walks and a 2.63 ERA for the Rangers. It's numbers like those that lead to Darvish being selected for the All-Star game for a third straight year.

"I'm very honored, I'm very happy that I was selected three consecutive years," Darvish said. "I have higher goals but being able to put up the results that I was able to put up the first half, I think I was lucky."

Luck or not, Darvish is tasked with making sure the Rangers don't get swept.

Astros: Castro could return to lineup
Catcher Jason Castro could return to the lineup Wednesday after he missed the previous two games with a mysterious pain in his left armpit. He was in a lot of pain Monday and had felt better Tuesday, so he was hoping to make enough progress to start Wednesday.

"I saw a few doctors yesterday and without getting into some in-depth testing, they can only guess to what it is," he said. "Everything seems pretty minor what they're guesses are. The way I came to the field and felt today, it's really not worth trying to pinpoint it, I guess, just stick with what we're doing right and the progress."

The injury comes at a bad time for Castro, who was hitting .462 (6-for-13) in his last three games after getting moved into the No. 2 spot in the batting order.

Rangers: Smolinski coming off of first start
One day after he made his Major League debut Monday, Rangers outfielder Jake Smolinski learned Tuesday that he'd be getting his first Major League start.

The 25-year-old was 0-for-2 as a pinch hitter Monday night in a 12-7 loss to the Astros, and started Tuesday's game in left field. His first Major League hit came in the form of an RBI double to left field in the seventh inning, and he singled in the ninth for a 2-for-4 performance.

"It feels great. I'm excited about the hits, it would have been nice to get the 'W,' also," Smolinski said. "I felt like I was seeing the ball well my first two at-bats, had some tough pitches. I just told myself after the first two to just keep on it, and stay positive and stick with it."

Smolinski said the past few days have been hectic. He was just promoted from Double-A Frisco to Triple-A Round Rock on June 25, and now he's in Arlington.

"It's been crazy," Smolinski said. "I was in Round Rock for a week and then got the call from my manager and have just been trying to soak it in and really focus on what's important. That's getting ready for the game, playing baseball."

In Frisco, Smolinski hit .267 in 72 games with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs. He was selected to the Texas League All-Star Game, and played just eight games in Round Rock. He doubled in six of the eight.

Smolinski said he has played most of his Minor League career in left, which is where Rangers manager Ron Washington plans to use him, in addition to the DH slot.

Before Tuesday's game Smolinski received some advice from his fellow outfielders about his first start.

"I was talking to Alex [Rios] and Dan [Daniel Robertson] in the outfield a little bit and it's the same way they felt, too," Smolinski said. "It's exciting to get in there."

Worth noting
• Astros second baseman Jose Altuve stole his 40th and 41st bases Tuesday, giving him 28 in a row without being caught, tying Carlos Beltran's Astros record from 2004. He had his 39th multi-hit game Tuesday, which leads the Majors.

• Adrian Beltre is on a 12-game hitting streak and has scored runs in seven-consecutive games. Comments