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2019 Series Preview #2: Houston Astros @ Texas Rangers

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The Astros (1-3, t-4th in AL West) play 3 against the Rangers (2-1, 2nd in AL West) for the first divisional series of the 2019 season

Houston Astros v Texas Rangers Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images

Recency Bias

Astros

The Astros stumble into Arlington after 4 games against the Rays at the accursed Tropicana Field, where the bats would struggle to produce consistent offense, especially near the top of the order. The lineup would struggle to string together clutch hits, leaving a good number of players on the base paths until the 4th game, where the bats seemed to simply fall asleep.

Shiny new Astro Michael Brantley didn’t have any problems fitting in during the opening series, slashing a gaudy .385/.385/.692 while driving in 3 in 13 AB’s. He also slammed a mammoth home run in the first game and drove in the Astros’ only two runs of the third. In the small sample size of the first series though, Marisnick actually had the higher OPS at 1.357, but that was in only 8 plate appearances.

Chirinos, Springer, and Altuve were next in line for most productive after that so far as total production is concerned, though Chrinos did his damage in only 9 total plate appearances across the series. It was nice to see a healthy Altuve swing the bat with some authority, even if his .214 average is less than what we would expect from him on a regular basis.

Though he didn’t hit for much power in these first four games, Tyler White did manage to impress with a .400 OBP. However, his 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio was considerably less so. Beyond that Reddick had an ok series with .300’s across the board for his slash line while everyone else did almost nothing at the plate.

The bullpen turned in a rock-solid performance, only surrendering a single run across 9 total IP as a whole. Josh James saw the most action with 3 innings in 2 games to go with 5 strikeouts and only allowing two baserunners. Osuna and Rondón would both have perfect innings, with Osuna appearing in the 9th in the first game even though it wasn’t a save situation.

Pressly and Harris would both pitch a clean inning as well, keeping the drama to a minimum during their appearances on the mound. The only reliever to allow a run was Devo, who would give up a single ER across two innings pitched in the same game.

Houston will next turn its sights on what should be an easier challenge as they return to Texas hungry to make up some ground in the standings on this very young season.

Rangers

The Rangers welcome Houston to town after winning a high-octane three game series against the cubs that featured 51 runs scored between the two teams. Though their pitching certainly left a little something to be desired, the Rangers were able to pull off the series win with their bats and a little bit of luck when they scored the winning run on a walk-off wild pitch by the Cubs’ reliever.

Elvis Andrus was red-hot during this series, going 5-for-13 with a walk and belting a homer during the series. Asdrúbal Cabrera would announce himself to his new city during that series as well, swatting a couple of homers while driving in five runners in 12 PA across all three games of the series. Nomar Mazara was also pretty clutch, doing a little bit of everything with a triple, a homer, and 4 walks in 9 AB.

Joey Gallo did Joey Gallo things with a double and a home run in his 3 hits while also taking a couple of walks to go with 4 strikeouts. Old Friend Hunter Pence was not too shabby in limited time at the plate, slashing .429/.500/.429 in the two games he appeared in. After that Isiah Kiner-Falefa was probably the Rangers’ most dangerous hitter during this series.

Beyond those players, things begin to head downhill for Arlington, though Delino DeShields would hit his first career grand slam in the series finale against the Cubs, and has managed 3 walks and a stolen base so far, but has not been swinging a hot bat otherwise.

As for the relievers, things have swung a little back and forth, but there has also been a good chunk of IP for the relief corps, with relievers accounting for 10.2 of the innings across three games. Kyle Bird, Shawn Kelley, and Jeffrey Springs have all managed to keep runs off the board during their appearances, though Bird did give out 3 free passes during his 1 inning on the mound. José Leclerc also pitched to a 0.00 ERA in 2.1 innigs and nabbed himself a save for his efforts.

However, the other pitchers coming out of the pen during the Cubs series did not look pretty. Jeanmar Gómez and Chris Martin were probably the best of the four, and by that I mean they only managed to give up 2 runs apiece in 1.1 and 1.0 innings of work, respectively. Kyle Dowdy was not so lucky, surrendering 3 in 2 innings while former starter Jesse Chave was rather putrid, giving up 4 runs in only 0.2 IP.

The Rangers will look to keep Houston down and maybe build a little momentum themselves even though they’re projected to go nowhere this season.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Brad Peacock, RHP (0-0, -.— ERA) vs. Drew Smyly, LHP (0-0, -.— ERA)

Brad Peacock will make his 2019 debut as the #5 starter after winning the job thanks to an excellent Spring Training. He would pitch to a 3.38 ERA and strikeout 13 opposing batters across 13.1 innings of work. He would give up 5 earned runs during that time, though, with an additional 2 unearned runs surrendered as well. He was also one of the Astros’ better starters so far as walks went during the spring, only surrendering 2 during his time in camp.

The Rangers will counter with Drew Smyly, who is making his return to the game after recovering from Tommy John surgery. This game will be his first regular season outing since September of 2016. His Spring was somewhat more pedestrian than Peacock’s giving up 7 earned runs and 6 walks across 13 innings. He would have the punch outs working though, setting 16 down on K’s.

I feel like Peacock will continue to do what he has always done as an Astro pitcher and quietly go about his craft at a high level, edging out Smyly for this game.

Game 2: Justin Verlander, RHP (1-0, 1.29 ERA) vs. Shelby Miller, RHP (0-0, -.— ERA)

Verlander had another dominant starting day performance, going 7 strong innings while only giving up 3 hits and striking out 9. The only mars on his performance were the lead off homer he gave up to the first opposing batter of the season, and a single walk later on in the game. Other than that it was smooth sailing, as one would expect from an ace such as Verlander.

Shelby Miller will make his debut for the Rangers, who you may remember as the centerpiece of one of the worst trades in recent history. The D-backs gave away the farm for what was one of the best pitching prospects at the time, only to see him completely fall apart in his first season in Arizona before undergoing TJ surgery in 2017. His Spring was not super great for someone who is looking for redemption, turning in a 5.19 ERA in only 8.2 innings of work across 4 starts. He would also walk 6 and only strikeout 8 during that time. Spring is Spring, of course, but things are not quite looking up for Miller.

I mean, how can one not take Verlander over Miller here?

Game 3: Gerrit Cole, RHP (0-1, 1.50 ERA) vs. Mike Minor, LHP (0-1, 11.57 ERA)

Cole was the recipient of some bad luck in his first game of the season. In spite of a solid 6 innings where he would strike out 10, Cole would take the loss thanks to 3 unearned runs in an extended inning due to shoddy defense. He showed excellent command like the rest of the rotation, not allowing a single free pass. Hopefully he can keep it going in his next start if he can get a solid backing from the infield.

Mike Minor was the Rangers’ Opening Day starter and he managed to set the tone for the starting pitching by falling flat on his face. The 11.57 ERA is a result of 6 runs surrendered across 4.2 innings where he would strike out just 3 batters. He would also walk 2 and give up a homer. This comes as he begins his second year of a 3-year contract with the Rangers, where they hoped he would anchor the rotation.

Cole definitely looked better in his first start and I expect that trend to continue here.

Fun Fact

The Astros now hold the lead for most consecutive Opening Day wins at 7 thanks to the Orioles getting beat by the Yankees. They have yet to lose an Opening Day as an AL team.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, April 1st @ 7:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Rangers - 105.3 The Fan, KFLC 1270
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Rangers - FSSW

Game 2: Tuesday, April 2nd @ 7:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Rangers - 105.3 The Fan, KFLC 1270
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Rangers - FSSW

Game 3: Wednesday, April 3rd @ 7:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Rangers - 105.3 The Fan, KFLC 1270
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Rangers - FSSW+

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (105 votes)
  • 37%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (90 votes)
  • 13%
    Rangers Win 2-1
    (32 votes)
  • 5%
    Rangers Sweep 3-0
    (12 votes)
239 votes total Vote Now