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Series Preview #34: Texas Rangers @ Houston Astros

The Houston Astros (67-37, 1st in AL West) and Texas Rangers (42-62, 5th in AL West) square off for a weekend series between two rivals.

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

Recency Bias


Coming off an exciting All-Star break for the organization, the Houston Astros have picked up right where they left off in the first half. The squad has now played five games since the break and owns a record of 3-2 in those five contests after splitting a two-game series with the Colorado Rockies. Both games against the Rockies were action-packed and tightly contested, with the Astros exploding for six runs in the 10th inning the first night and then the Rockies earning the win with a Charlie Blackmon walk-off home run in the second game. This was certainly a good road test for the Astros, who had not played a team (besides Oakland) with a winning record since mid-June.

The most impressive part about the Colorado series, however, had nothing to do with Houston’s performance on the field. I was absolutely amazed with how many Houston Astros fans made the trip up to Denver for a mid-week series. Houston has always shown that it will support a winner, but wow that turnout was awesome to see on the AT&T SportsNet broadcast.

Now, the Astros will turn the page to their final series of the 2018 season against the Arlington Rangers. The Astros already have the Silver Boot locked up and stored away for the 2018 season, as they have won 12 out of the 16 matchups between these two teams. In these 16 games, the Houston Astros have outscored the Rangers by a margin of 89-51. After losing seven Silver Boots in a row from 2007-2013, the Astros have now won 3 out of the last 5 and two in a row.


The Arlington Rangers enter this three-game weekend series having just traded their “Ace” Cole Hamels to the Chicago Cubs. Now losers of 8 out of their last 10 games, including a recent four-game sweep by the Oakland Athletics at home, it seems that the Rangers are in tanking mode for the rest of this season. This would make sense, as with just over two months to play in the regular season, Arlington is 25.0 games back of the first place Houston Astros in the AL West.

While this year has certainly gone south quickly for the Rangers, there have been some notable performances on their 25-man roster. First, their lone All-Star selection, Shin-Soo Choo, has been able to stay healthy so far in 2018 and produce a very solid season offensively. Through 97 games, Choo boasts a slash line of .286/.400/.487, a wRC+ of 142, 18 home runs, and a fWAR of 2.9. As this is his best offensive season since 2013 when he played for the Reds, you would have to believe that Choo is a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year in the American League.

Another player having a nice bounce-back season for Arlington is former top prospect Jurickson Profar. Still only 25 years old, Profar has been a catalyst for the Rangers in all parts of the lineup, getting on base at a respectable .331 clip and stealing a few bases (8) as well. With such great potential, it was only a matter of time before Profar would start to figure things out in the major leagues and it seems that he is finally starting to progress at this level.

From a pitching standpoint, it has been a pretty ugly year all around for the Rangers. The lone bright spot in Arlington’s bullpen has been Jose Leclerc, who owns one of the highest K%s in all of baseball at 35.6%. At only 24 years old, LeClerc would seem to be a valuable trade piece for the Rangers, but my guess is that they’ll want to hold onto him because he’s so young and can still improve his skills over the years.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Yovani Gallardo, RHP (4-1, 7.18 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel, LHP (8-8, 3.53 ERA)

Dallas Keuchel enters tonight’s game riding his best run of the 2018 season as the former Cy Young winner now boasts a 0.98 ERA over his last four starts. In 27.2 innings pitched, Keuchel has stuck out 18 opposing hitters, only walked six, and has a low FIP as well at 2.51. His command has been much more sharp, he has induced more ground balls, and he has begun to erase his first inning struggles from earlier this season.

I’m sure Keuchel is eager to get back out on the mound tonight, as he has had success facing the Rangers at Minute Maid Park in the past and the Rangers offense is probably feeling a bit defeated after scoring in bunches against Oakland yet failing to close games and seal wins for their team.

On the other side, Yovani Gallardo is having another rough season as he, now 32 years old, is definitely on the back half of his career. The 32 year-old right hander now owns a 5.51 ERA with the Rangers in only six starts, also posting a relatively high BB% of 10.5%. Tonight has the potential to be a rough game for Gallardo, as many Astros hit him well. For example, Josh Reddick is 8-for-16, Evan Gattis is 5-for-13 with 1 home run, and Jose Altuve is 11-for-38 in his career against Gallardo.

Game 2: TBA vs. Justin Verlander, RHP (10-5, 2.19 ERA)

As of right now, Cole Hamels is technically slated to make the start for the Rangers on Saturday night. Obviously, after the Rangers and Cubs agreed to ship Hamels to Chicago, Hamels will not make the start on Saturday and probably will be a Chicago Cub by then. At the time this preview will be published, maybe the Rangers will have said something by then, but right now there is no official word on the trade from the team and thus we do not know who will start on Saturday night.

For the Astros, Justin Verlander will get the ball and will look to improve to 11-5 on the season and perhaps cross the 190 strikeouts mark for the 2018 campaign as well. Coming into tomorrow night’s game, Verlander currently has 183 strikeouts on the season, good for the 5th highest strikeout total in the MLB. Additionally, Verlander is chasing a career milestone as the veteran right-hander currently has 2,599 strikeouts and will look for 2,600 tomorrow night.

Through his last start in July, Verlander still is firmly in contention for the American League Cy Young as he owns an ERA of 2.19, a WHIP of 0.85, and some of the top K% and BB% numbers in all of baseball.

Game 3: Mike Minor, LHP (6-6, 4.83 ERA) vs. Lance McCullers Jr., RHP (10-5, 4.01 ERA)

Two struggling and inconsistent pitchers will square off on Sunday afternoon as it has been a disappointing campaign for both Lance McCullers Jr. and Mike Minor. After starting off the year with pretty good numbers, McCullers has been in a rut of late. The young right-hander certainly has better stuff and the potential to post an ERA far lower than 4.01, but inconsistency with his command his plagued him recently.

For the Rangers, Mike Minor was probably their best signing of the 2017-18 offseason. Minor has the ability to be productive as a left-handed option, but is probably better off as a bullpen pitcher. If he were on a contending team, I’d bet that he would be in a bullpen role. As a starter, he has been roughed up a bit by some tough American League offenses.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, July 27th @ 7:10 PM CDT

Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Rangers - 105.3 The Fan, KFLC 1270

Watch: MLB Network (Out-of-market only) Astros - AT&T SportsNet-SW / Rangers - Fox Sports Southwest

Game 2: Saturday, July 28th @ 6:10 PM CDT

Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Rangers - 105.3 The Fan, KFLC 1270

Watch: Astros - AT&T SportsNet-SW / Rangers - Fox Sports Southwest

Game 3: Sunday, July 29th @ 1:10 PM CDT

Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Rangers - 105.3 The Fan, KFLC 1270

Watch: Astros - AT&T SportsNet-SW / Rangers - Fox Sports Southwest


Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (70 votes)
  • 33%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (38 votes)
  • 0%
    Rangers Sweep 3-0
    (1 vote)
  • 3%
    Rangers Win 2-1
    (4 votes)
113 votes total Vote Now