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Game #41 Preview: Houston Astros vs Texas Rangers

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Here’s all you need to know for tonight’s continuation of the 2018 Lone Star Series, which is currently tied 4-4.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Astros (24-16) vs. Texas Rangers (16-24), May 12, 2018, 6:10 PM CDT

TV: AT&T SportsNet-SW, MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Radio: KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM

Online: MLB.TV

Rangers SBNation Blog: Lone Star Ball

Vegas Perspective

Opening Line: Astros -260 (72.22%)

Our Model: Astros 71.1%

FiveThirtyEight: Astros 66%

Fangraphs: Astros 68.3%

Pitching Matchup

RHP Charlie Morton (4-0, 2.16 ERA, 48 SO) vs. RHP Doug Fister (1-3, 4.02 ERA, 25 SO)

Tonight the Astros will see a familiar face in Doug Fister. Fister is one of the few pitchers who didn’t follow the usual ‘Brent Strom miracle working’ trend, as Fister has actually looked re-energized since leaving the team after 2016.

Fister failed to make a team in the 2016-17 off-season and wasn’t on an active roster until Boston took a flyer on him halfway through the season. The results were unexpected and impressive. Fister has never been a strikeout pitcher, but in 90.1 innings Fister amassed an eye-popping career high strikeout rate of 8.27 K/9 at the age of 33. His 4.88 ERA on the season was misleading due to extreme sequencing variation, and his peripherals painted a much prettier picture. This season is showing that, as his ERA is down, the strikeout numbers are sticking, and the peripherals still check out.

Fister came out of the gates with revamped stuff in 2017, and so far his tools are holding up, as his velocity numbers are on par with last season’s across the chart. Trevor Bauer may want to turn his investigations towards the Rangers, as Fister’s curveball (10.1 average movement) is breaking harder than it has since 2013. Begrudgingly, I have to hand this one to the Rangers as a solid value signing, as Fister makes for a fine middle of the rotation arm, especially on a one year/$4-million deal with a team option.

Charlie Morton’s career with Houston has taken the opposite turn of Fister’s. As a career innings eater, and an often injured one at that, Morton had an unexpected breakout with the Astros last season, and the remarkable production has only continued into 2018. Morton is getting stronger - his velocity jumped to an unprecedented career high in 2016, hiked a tick in 2017 with the Astros, and is now up again. Morton’s average sinker is up from an average of 94.7 last year to 95.7 this year, and his four-seam fastball is up from 95.6 to 96.5.

Morton’s curveball has been his deadliest weapon, as it’s yielded a 19.4 SwStr% and a 35 wRC+. The cutter is Morton’s only pitch that has allowed a positive wRC+, yet he’s cut back on it from last year - Morton went to the cutter on 11.3% of his pitches last year, but this year that rate has dropped to 7.3%.

Today’s Lineups

Texas Rangers Houston Astros
Texas Rangers Houston Astros
Delino DeShields - CF Jose Altuve - 2B
Shin-Soo Choo - DH Alex Bregman - 3B
Nomar Mazara - RF Carlos Correa - SS
Adrian Beltre - 3B Yuli Gurriel - 1B
Joey Gallo - LF Brian McCann - C
Jurickson Profar - SS Marwin Gonzalez - LF
Rougned Odor - 2B Josh Reddick - RF
Robinson Chirinos - C Evan Gattis - DH
Ronald Guzman - 1B Derek Fisher - CF
Doug Fister - RHP Charlie Morton - RHP