Their rivalry will likely intensify in 2013. But before that, they must go through six more games as in-state, Interleague competitors. The first will come on Friday night at Minute Maid Park, where Texas right-hander Neftali Feliz will lead the Rangers against Wandy Rodriguez and the Astros. The rest of the home-and-home series will take place June 15-17 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
"Any time you get in the same division, that has a tendency to build on that [rivalry] a little bit more," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "You play each other so many times and it's in your division, those games have a little bit more on the line."
The two have been battling for the Silver Boot, which the Rangers have claimed five straight years. But Texas manager Ron Washington was quick to point out that the upstart Astros aren't to be overlooked so easily.
"Those young kids over there are starting to play," Washington said. "They're starting to believe. They're starting to play, man. They're not just the doormat anymore. You've got to go into Houston ready to play baseball.
"I've been keeping up with them. I saw them at the end of last year, and I've been seeing them quite a bit on TV -- and they can play. They've got some young talent that can play."
The Astros last won the Silver Boot in 2006, taking the season series, 4-2. As the Rangers have risen to prominence and become the two-time AL champs, though, it's been a decidedly one-sided rivalry. The Rangers have taken 14 of 18 games between the two clubs since 2009.
"It has to be a rivalry on the field for it to be meaningful," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said.
Rangers: Washington prefers National League managing
Washington said his heart is with the NL over the AL, despite spending so much of his career playing in the Junior Circuit -- and he is partial to the NL style of managing.
"[I like it] for the main reason that it keeps everybody engaged," Washington explained. "Guys can't be running back and forth into the clubhouse. They have to stay there. They never know when their opportunity is going to come. You have to be involved."
Washington has been resting his regular players at home over the past week or so, most recently keeping Josh Hamilton out of the starting lineup for the first time all season on Thursday.
"Our energy level was down at home," said Washington. "It wasn't down on the road. If it was down on the road, I would've done it on the road. But our energy level had been affected at home. When we go into play in Houston, I want every single one of them feeling good. We had a road trip from hell, and the fatigue factor hit us here. If it would have hit us on the road, I would've done it on the road."
Astros: Snyder ready for breakout
Chris Snyder is confident the offense will come around, like it has for much of his career. The most important thing for him at this point of the season is that he feels healthy after an injury-shortened 2011 and the pitching staff has confidence in what he can do behind the plate.
"For me, it's not something I worry about," he said. "Even as an everyday guy, I never really worried about the first 100 at-bats. The first 100 at-bats is more about trying to put up numbers that can't go down than worrying about your average because it can fluctuate so quickly. You do that and you hit your homers and get guys on base and drive guys in, that's what matters."
That's not to say the struggles never get to Snyder.
"By no means do I enjoy going 0-for-4," he said. "I want to go 3-for-3 with a walk and three homers every day."
Feliz allowed two runs on four hits in six innings on Sunday, picking up a win over the Angels. He is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 13 strikeouts over his last two starts. Current Astros hitters only have 11 total plate appearances against Feliz, though they have managed three hits -- two doubles and a homer -- and one walk.
Houston has posted its fewest wins in Interleague Play the past two seasons, going 4-11 in 2011 and 3-12 in 2010. The Astros haven't had a winning record in Interleague Play since 2004 (7-5), and have a 107-123 all-time record.