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Texas' Silver Boot set could have different feel

ARLINGTON -- The annual Silver Boot series could be coming to an end. Something more important will be at stake next year.

The Rangers open Interleague Play on Friday when they begin a three-game series with the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. The second half of this home-and-home battle will be on June 15-17 at the Ballpark in Arlington.

The team with the best record over those six games will get possession of the Silver Boot, and the Rangers have had it five straight years. Next season, it could become moot, because the Astros are moving to the American League West. Instead of Interleague Play, it will be about the division and more than just six games of a home-and-home series.

"I don't know if it will make a significant difference having them in the division other than playing them more often," infielder Michael Young said. "We'd like to see that organization start winning a lot of games and be part of a great five-team division in the AL West."

As for the Silver Boot ...

"The players never really made it a big deal," Young said.

There has been no official decision on the Silver Boot. The trophy was more of a big deal to former Astros owner Drayton McLane and Rangers counterpart Tom Hicks. The trophy hasn't been killed, but there is a good chance it will be retired by the current owners of both franchises.

"It has to be a rivalry on the field for it to be meaningful," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said.

The Rangers, despite having held on to the boot for five years, are still expecting a tough weekend when they face the Astros.

"Those young kids over there are starting to play," manager Ron 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."

Players to watch
Michael Young (.324, 29, 128): He is a career .324 hitter in Interleague Play. That's the 14th-highest batting average of any player ever with at least 300 at-bats in Interleague Play. He is a .347 hitter at Minute Maid Park, but the trick will be getting him into the lineup every day at National League ballparks.
Closer Joe Nathan (4-2, 2.39): Interleague Play will also herald the coming of the hot Texas summer weather for the senior member of the Rangers' pitching staff. He is 27-for-30 in saves during his Interleague career.

Last year: Texas went 9-9 against the National League last year after going 14-4 in 2010. The Rangers finished Interleague Play by losing two of three to the Marlins at the beginning of July that dropped them into a tie for first place. They responded by going on a 12-game winning streak to take control of the division.

All-time: The Rangers are 135-131 all-time in Interleague Play, including 53-37 since the beginning of 2007. Their 14-4 record in 2010, which included an 11-game winning streak, was their best and they went 4-14 in 2003.

at Astros, May 18-20; vs. Astros, June 15-17: The Rangers are 37-29 all-time against the Astros, including 19-14 at Minute Maid Park since this interstate rivalry came together. Carlos Lee is hitting .321 with 15 home runs and 53 RBIs in 81 career games against the Rangers.

at Giants, June 8-10: Except for Spring Training, this will be the first time these two teams have played since the 2010 World Series. The Rangers lost two games at AT&T Park during the World Series and are 0-9 there in the regular season. The Rangers haven't won in San Francisco since 1998 at Candlestick Park.

vs. Diamondbacks, June 12-14: The D-backs make their first visit to Arlington since getting swept here in 2006. The Rangers went to Arizona in '09 and lost the first game on June 23. They won the next two. From that point through Tuesday night, the Rangers are 259-185 in the regular season.

at Padres, June 18-20: This will be the Rangers' first appearance at Petco Park. They haven't been to San Diego since 2001. Maybe Padres pitcher Edinson Volquez will face Josh Hamilton for the first time ever. They were traded for each other in 2006, when Volquez was with the Rangers and Hamilton was with the Reds.

vs. Rockies, June 22-24: The Rockies haven't been to Arlington since 2001. But Jason Giambi has faced the Rangers enough times to hit 37 home runs against them, third-most all-time and most by an active player.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger.
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