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Game Thread / Matchup # 71 vs. Rangers

Ricard Rodriguez   Roy Oswalt
2 - 0, 3.75 8 - 7, 2.72

So, as ridiculous as it might sound, we actually come upon a series that's somewhat big. Having won five of six since the Orioles sweep, the Astros can gauge their the level of their supposed improvement against a team that dusted their broom so to speak with us barely 4 weeks ago. This time, though. it is the Rangers that come into the fray ice cold: they've lost their last four, and even their erstwhile ace, Kenny Rogers, is coming off a loss.

Meanwhile, the NL Central--and much of the NL in general--has settled into a somnolent mediocrity, and even the second-place Cubs are only 3-1/2 games away. As my deeply conflicted column yesterday showed, I am rather torn about this state of affairs: yes, the Astros are playing better than basically anyone in the National League right now, except for probably Washington, but they were playing so godawfully earlier on, that it almost seems naive to think that they could scratch and claw themselves into wild-card contention.

So, I dunno. But I should know more after this series. This isn't Colorado and Kansas City, this is Texas, a quality club that can hit (in spades) and can pitch (at least moderately well), and yeah, make no mistake: they kicked our asses four weeks ago.

If Houston gets swept or even takes a single game, I'll understand that the previous six games were more a cruel mirage, an imagined neon sign in the desert that is Houston's mediocrity. But imagine if Houston takes two of three or even sweeps. It'll be hard not to get excited.

Taking the series from Texas won't be easy, even though they've entered a slump. They're third in the majors in runs scored, and first in homers and total bases.

But we start off on probably our strongest foot currently, with Oswalt, who's given up one run over his last two starts, and pitched 17 innings in them. He's currently fifth in the NL in ERA, too. Plus, he's a mean son of a bitch who might just take Phil Garner and his "bloodbath" comment seriously.

I've chosen the lineup comparison tonight to highlight how difficult I think the series is going to be to win. The Rangers trump us up and down in Runs Created per 27 outs, so well need to create our own advantages:

Runs Created in Texas
RCx27 Astro Pos. Ranger RCx27
  2.33   Brad Ausmus C1 Rod Barajs 4.32 x
0.48 Raul Chavez C2 Sandy Alomar, Jr. 4.31 x
  5.44   Lance Berkman 1B Mark Teixeira 7.53 x
5.65 Craig Biggio 2B Alfonso Soriano 6.87 x
  3.52   Adam Everett SS Michael Young 6.07 x
x 7.02 Morgan Ensberg 3B Hank Blalock 6.07
4.48   Willy Taveras OF1 David Dellucci 8.00 x
  4.40 Jason Lane OF2 Kevin Mench 7.86 x
  1.32   Chris Burke OF3 Richard Hidalgo 4.00 x
x 6.94 Orlando Palmeiro OF4 Laynce Nix 3.51
  0.10   Roy Oswalt Pitcher Ricardo Rodriguez 12.30 x