Once more unto the breach dear friends, once more...
So begins the rally cry of Henry V as he encourages his English troops to storm the French garrison at Harfleur in Shakespeare's Henry V.
After playing 10 straight games against division leaders, the Astros must play one more series against a first-place team: one they know all too well. It's the 6th and final series between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers, and the Astros have yet to win a series against their in-state rivals in 2016.
Much like the long, bitter rivalry that existed between England and France for centuries, the Astros and Rangers seem destined for many more battles to come, though likely with less bloodshed. Whether you are an Astros fan or a Rangers fan, there is no denying that placing these teams in the same division has created one of the more heated rivalries in baseball almost instantly. If you disagree, simply take a gander at the comments section of this post.
The final clash between these bitter enemies comes almost exactly one year after the Rangers stole the division lead from the Astros last season on September 15, 2015. A year later, the Astros are more concerned about simply making the playoffs than winning the division. For Houston, this series is less about an opportunity to gain on the Rangers and more about simply staying close in the AL Wild Card race until the schedule starts to soften.
The Astros' starters for this series consist of a pitcher on the wrong side of an up and down year, a starter who hasn't been able to stick in the majors, and a rookie who has had mixed results. It isn't the most encouraging group of starters, but they'll have to find a way to get it done.
[For] when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of a tiger; Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage.
Monday: RHP Doug Fister (12-11, 4.14 ERA, 1.37 WHIP) vs. LHP Martin Perez (10-10, 4.25 ERA, 1.43 WHIP)
Tuesday: RHP Brad Peacock (0-0, 3.38 ERA, 1.22 WHIP) vs. RHP A.J. Griffin (7-4, 4.92 ERA, 1.33 WHIP)
Wednesday: RHP Joe Musgrove (2-4, 4.78 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) vs. RHP Yu Darvish (5-4, 3.28 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)
To be fair, the Rangers aren't exactly sending out Cy Young candidates themselves. Yu Darvish has been pretty good since coming back from the DL, but the Astros were able to get to him just over a week ago in Arlington as he gave up 5 ER and only lasted 4 innings.
Still, the Rangers' offense has done just enough to overcome their mediocre pitching staff, as evidenced by their 31-10 record in one-run games. Speaking of close games, 12 of the 16 games these two teams have played this year were decided by 2 runs or less.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide, hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit to his full height.
With the best record in the AL and a 9.5 game lead in the division, the Rangers seem destined for the playoffs. Still, they won't be taking anything for granted as they come through Houston for the last time this season.
Meanwhile, the Astros sit 3.5 games behind both Toronto and Baltimore, who hold the two AL Wild Card spots. With 19 games remaining in the 2016 regular season, Houston needs to turn it on now.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start. The game's afoot: Follow your spirit, and upon this charge cry ‘God for [Hinch, Houston, and Playoffs]!'