Interstate Play

Despite winning 13 of their last 17 games, the Texas Rangers still haven't been able to finish off a three-game sweep this season.

The Houston Astros, who haven't been swept, wouldn't like to become their first victims.

Texas will look to change its luck in series finales on Sunday at Rangers Ballpark, but it may have to do so without major league RBI leader Josh Hamilton in the lineup.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Texas -135 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 11 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 58% of bets for this game have been placed on Texas -135 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.

The Rangers (22-22) have a chance to move above .500 Sunday for the first time since they were 5-4 on April 10. They've won four of five and nine of 11, rebounding from a difficult 7-16 start to move within 2 1/2 games of first place in the AL West.

"It's significant because it happened this early," shortstop Michael Young said. "Obviously it's not where we want to end up. We have higher hopes for this season. To get back to .500 in the middle of May is a pretty good feeling."

After a 16-8 victory over the Astros (24-20) Friday night, they secured their seventh consecutive series win with a 6-2 victory on Saturday. But to sweep their first three-game set of the year, they'll have to buck a trend that has accounted for three of the four losses during their current run.

In three of their past four series - including their last two - against Seattle and Oakland, they've taken the first two games only to drop the finale.

The task also may be harder with Hamilton's health in doubt. The center fielder left Saturday's game in the fifth inning, still battling a sore shoulder, hip and calf suffered lunging for a fly ball in the first inning Friday. He had discussed taking Sunday off with manager Ron Washington.

Hamilton is 7-for-8 in the series after going 5-for-5 with two home runs and five RBIs Friday. He leads the majors with 49 RBIs.

He's hardly the only hot hitter for Texas, which is second in the AL to Boston with 222 runs - four ahead of the Astros. Milton Bradley is 8-for-17 with three home runs and seven RBIs in his last five games.

Houston's bats have also been busy. Lance Berkman is second to Hamilton with 44 RBIs after going 2-for-3 Saturday and hit his league-leading 16th home run. Berkman has hit in 16 straight games, raising his average to .399 and joining Pete Rose as the only hitters since 1956 with 31 hits in a span of 50 at-bats.

"It's great, but it's what, May (17)?" Berkman told his Astros' official Web site. "Trust me, I'm thrilled to tears, but the only significance of that is it's a good run. We've got a long way to go."

Arlington native Hunter Pence has also hit in 15 straight for the Astros.

Houston's offense has helped it avoid a series sweep this season, but the main problem has been pitching. The Astros have allowed 29 runs in their last three games.

Brandon Backe will hope to slow down Texas' bats on Sunday and try to avoid losing three consecutive starts for the first time since 2005. Backe (2-5, 4.62 ERA) has also struggled in his career against the Rangers.

In two starts and five appearances, he has given up 18 earned runs and six home runs in 18 innings. He hasn't faced Texas since 2005, but Young certainly remembers Backe, having gone 9-for-10 with two home runs against him.

Kason Gabbard will face Houston for the first time as the Rangers left-hander seeks his first win since April 4. While Gabbard (1-0, 2.12) has battled injuries and spent time on the disabled list this season, the Rangers are 5-1 when he starts, and the left-hander hasn't allowed more than three runs in any outing. Bet this game.

Here are some top trends for today's game:

- HOUSTON is 24-19 (+8.7 Units) against the money line in all games this season.

- TEXAS is 91-99 (+9.4 Units) against the money line in games played on a grass field over the last 2 seasons.

Get real live customizable updates, public betting info from 6 online sports books, archived public betting info and much more by clicking here.

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