Houston Astros vs. Arlington Rangers, April 10-12 2015
The Astros head north to face the Rangers, for the first of 15-straight AL West games on Houston's calendar. Friday is the Rangers home opener, it's also first home opener for new manager Jeff Banister. Banister, the former Houston Cougar, takes over for Ron Washington after three years on the bench for the Pirates.
Banister hoped to be taking over a sleeping giant in the Rangers, who set a record by having 60 different players on the active roster in 2014. The Rangers were devastated by injures to the point where most questioned their future, a far cry from two trips to the World Series and the top minor league system in baseball. Everything was on track for the Rangers to get healthy and fight their way out of the AL West basement. Unfortionally, the Rangers ace Yu Darvish went down with Tommy John surgery for the 2015 season. Darvish was the one piece the Rangers could ill-afford to lose. Former Brewers frontline pitcher Yovani Gallardo was brought in to fill the void but nothing replaces Darvish.
In 2014, the Astros took the season series from the Rangers for the first time since 2006 - 11-8. As a result, the Silver Boot trophy now sits outside of the team store behind home plate. Now it's time for the Astros defend their claim on it in 2015.
Key Additions and Departures
The Rangers two biggest departures are a result of injury Yu Darvish (Tommy John surgery) and Jurickson Profar (shoulder surgery), who are both out for the season. Outfielder Alex Rios and reliever Robbie Ross are two veteran losses that will effect the Rangers overall depth but it does free up some spots for the younger players.
Like many times before Brewers let go of a players before he headed into a contract year, this time it was Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo made adjustments with his diminishing skills to be more of a ground ball pitcher. Former Nationals starter Ross Detwiler looks return to the rotation after spending all of 2014 in the bullpen. Former Cubs pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa will start the season on the disable list.
Collin McHugh starting the Astros' fourth game of the season seems a bit odd, if you don't take into the account he'll be pitching in the Rangers home opener. Houston will need to put it's best foot forward to win on the high emotion day for the Rangers and their fans.
Game 1: RHP Collin McHugh (11-9, 2.73 ERA, 1.02 WHIP in 2014) vs. LHP Derek Holland (2-0, 1.46 ERA, 1.05 WHIP in 2014)
Game 2: RHP Roberto Hernandez (8-11, 4.10 ERA, 1.39 WHIP in 2014) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (0-1, 9.00 ERA, 1.75 WHIP)
Game 3: LHP Dallas Keuchel (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.86 WHIP) vs. RHP Colby Lewis (1-0, 1.50 REA, 0.83 WHIP)
McHugh is just the man for the the job, after bursting on the scene in 2014 with a 2.73 ERA in 25 starts. The Rangers will counter with Derek Holland. Holland how missed much of 2014 after tripping over his dog and injuring his left knee. Entering the 2014, Holland had set himself up as the Rangers number two starter, pitching 213 innings in 2013. Holland is 3-1 with a 3.52 ERA in career starts agains the Astros.
The Astros will send out Roberto Hernandez in game two against Yovani Gallardo. Hernandez won a roster spot after visa issues were cleared up this spring. Hernandez looks to fill the roll of Erik Bedard, a cheap veteran innings eater that can keep the game close. Gallardo struggled in the season opener in Oakland, allowing 4 runs in 4 innings of work.
Dallas Keuchel make his second start of the season, Keuchel is 1-1 with a 5.24 ERA in four career starts at Globe Life Field. Colby Lewis starts for the Rangers in game 3. He was spectacular in his first start of the season, one run over six inning against the Athletics.
The Astros have been historically bad through three games. 38 strikeouts and .085 batting average is as about as bad is it gets. There isn't much more to stay other than the Astros can only go up from here.
The Rangers split their four games with the A's, trading 10 run wins in their final two game. Price Fielder has been striking the ball well since his return from a back injury. He is leading the team batting .333. New left fielder Ryan Rua has 4 hits and 8 strikeouts this young season.
The Astros start Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh in two of the three games this season, thus Houston wins two-of-three in Arlington. Chris Carter and Evan Gattis break out of their slumps and smack a few extra-base hits.