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Silver Boot Round #2: Astros-Rangers Series Preview

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The Astros and Rangers square off for the second installment of the 2018 Silver Boot Series with the Astros already holding a 3-1 advantage. Can Houston put themselves in the driver’s seat this weekend?

MLB: Houston Astros at Texas Rangers Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Starting tonight, the defending World Champion Houston Astros face off against division rival Texas Rangers for a three game set at Minute Maid Park. Here is a preview of what is to come:

Storylines

The Houston Astros look to rebound from losing their first series of the season at Minnesota where they largely continued a troubling trend of cold hitting, with the exception of the series finale when Houston came back from a 8-1 deficit only to lose on a Max Kepler walk-off home run in the ninth inning.

Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel is expected to make his season debut with the major league club after injuring his hand and serving a five-game suspension stemming from last fall’s World Series gesture towards then Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish.

In his five-game rehab stint with AA Corpus Christi, Gurriel hit .429 with a slugging percentage of .619 and three runs batted in over 21 plate appearances. The Astros had to make a corresponding roster move in order to call up Gurriel, so the club decided to option first/third baseman J.D. Davis to AAA Fresno.

The Astros will rely on starting pitchers Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, and Justin Verlander for the series against Texas. Cole’s 22 strikeouts through his first two appearances as an Astro are a club record. Morton is yet to give up an earned run in his 12 innings pitched thus far, while also averaging 9.75 strikeouts per nine innings.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: Gerrit Cole (1-0, 0.64 ERA, 0.71 WHIP) vs. Cole Hamels (1-2, 5.06 ERA, 1.63 WHIP)

  • Can Gerrit Cole continue to generate whiffs at a high rate by increasing the usage of his slider to set up his fastball?
  • Will Yuli Gurriel’s return help ignite the Astros offense?

Saturday: Charlie Morton (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP) vs. Mike Minor (1-1, 2.53 ERA, 0.84 WHIP)

  • The Astros will see two left-handed starters in a row from Arlington, which probably means more playing time for Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez. This could also mean that Derek Fisher will be spending more time on the bench this upcoming weekend.
  • How long can Charlie Morton’s 0.00 ERA last? We’ll find out.

Sunday (Nationally Televised on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball): Justin Verlander (2-0, 1.45 ERA, 0.96 WHIP) vs. Bartolo Colon (0-0, 1.64 ERA, 1.00 WHIP)

  • It’s Verlander against Bart on Sunday Night Baseball... Just watch. Alright fine at least flip back and forth between Rockets playoffs and the Astros.

Season Stats Thus Far

Houston Astros

9-4 (3-1 vs. Rangers)

2nd in the AL West; 1 game back of Los Angeles

Point differential: +20 (3rd in the American League)

Record at Minute Maid Park: 5-1

Last series: Lost two out of three at Minnesota

Last 10: 7-3

Texas Rangers

4-10

5th in the AL West; 6.5 games back of Los Angeles

Point differential: -33 (Worst in the American League)

Record on the road: 2-2

Last series: Lost all three vs. Los Angeles Angels

Last 10: 3-7