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2019 Series Preview #7: Houston Astros @ Texas Rangers

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The Astros (12-6, 1st in AL West) head back to Arlington for Round 2 of the Lone Star Series against the Rangers (10-7, 3rd in AL West)

MLB: Houston Astros at Texas Rangers Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Recency Bias

Astros

The Astros return to Texas after a 10-1 rampage through the Yankees and AL West. They head to Arlington after a series split against the A’s that featured some heavy duty pitching by the Astros, with only three runs allowed through both games. Ultimately it was the bats that fell silent in the final game against the A’s, but that was up against what looks to be an up and coming pitcher for Oakland.

So far on the trip Gurriel has had the best week on the offense, sporting a .381/.409/.619 slash line with a grand slam under his belt and a couple of doubles. Of course Altuve’s not too far behind him with his own grand slam and another homer since leaving Minute Maid Park. Unfortunately he would see an 8-game hitting streak snapped yesterday, but he’s been on fire during that span.

Reddick has also been swinging it well lately after hitting both his first homer and double of the season on this road trip. Meanwhile, Springer has continued to have the clutch stroke, leading the team in RBI’s at 14, but him and Bregman have been trending more towards getting on base than average in the early goings.

In fact, OBP and good AB’s seem to be back in style for the Astros as they have been doing a good job of extending pitchers and taking walks where they can. Even Tyler White, who has been somewhat maligned for his slow start at DH, is sporting a .371 OBP on the year and .500 in the last week alone.

As for the bullpen, it would have another stellar week along the West Coast trip. There were only 4 runs surrendered in 16 innings of work across 5 games. Devo, Peacock, and Guduan are the only pitchers who gave up runs in relief, though one of the ones against Peacock was unearned and came during that odd play where the ump got plunked. Don’t expect to see too much of him out of the pen though, as Peacock is expected to rejoin the rotation in short order.

After that it’s been smooth sailing with the only other pitcher to give up a hit being Will Harris in just 2 innings. Josh James would have a nice, drama-free outing of 2 innings against Oakland, while the high leverage guys were given a bit of a break. Pressly and Osuna, for example, have now had 4 days off after pitching in almost every other game of the win streak.

The Astros come into town looking for some revenge against the Rangers and hopefully to get a little separation from the rest of the AL West now that the Mariners are floundering.

Rangers

Meanwhile, the Rangers have been on a minor tear of their own. Also coming in after a shortened schedule thanks to a Saturday rain out, the team his won 4 in a row including a sweep over the Angels. After that they find themselves just 1.5 games back from the Astros and ready to leapfrog the Mariners. They’ve done it by swinging some hot bats against the West this week, with a 4-1 record against the A’s and Angels.

The team has 4 batters who were able to mash an OPS over 1.100, with Shin-Soo Choo leading the charge with a .474/.565/.842 slash line. He also has one of the three triples that the Rangers have hit this week. Asdrúbal Cabrera has been getting after it this week as well, having swatted 3 home runs in the last 5 games. Elvis Andrus and Joey Gallo round out the main producers in the OPS departments. Gallo in particular is starting to find some success going the other way with balls hit against the shift.

Nomar Mazara and Delino DeShields have been the biggest threats after that, though Logan Forsythe has had a pretty nice .368 OBP in the last week. Beyond that the Rangers’ production was a little scarce at the plate this week.

As for the Rangers’ pen, it has been coughing up runs at what seems like an alarming pace this past week. They’ve given up 9 runs in 17 innings of work this past week, with Jeanmar Gómez the only arm in the pen to have not surrendered one this week. To be fair, the pen has seen a lot of use thanks to starters not going very deep in their games, but a complete game by Mike Minor plus the rain out has given them a couple extra days of rest.

José Leclerc remains the closer for the Rangers even after stumbling against Arizona since the last time the Astros saw him. He’s definitely the bright spot of that pen, though Shawn Kelley and Chris Martin have been seeing a lot of the high leverage spots in games lately as well.

Jeffrey Springs has probably been the best reliever out of the pen this season after that, matching Kelley for the team high of 8 IP this season. And, of course, there’s converted starter Jesse Chavez, who you can expect to see in long relief at least at one point in this series.

If the Rangers can sneak a second series win off of the Astros they would be in a good position in the early goings of the season, but it will be a tall order if the ‘Stros’ pitching staff can do what it’s been doing lately and stifle hot offenses.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Justin Verlander, RHP (2-0, 3.52 ERA) vs. Drew Smyly, LHP (0-1, 7.15 ERA)

Verlander comes into this start after a superb outing against the Mariners his last time out. He would strike out 11 in 6 innings while only allowing a single run on 2 hits and no walks. He’ll look for a little absolution as his last time on the mound in Arlington did not go well. He would only go 4 innings in that game and struggled with command and location through most of it.

Smyly will make the start for the Rangers after a couple of ho-hum showings against Oakland and the Angels. In just 8.1 innings across two games he’s allowed 4 earned runs while walking five. He would also just barely make it through three against the Astros in his first start of the season, but he would at least manage to avoid giving up more than 1 run. This all comes after Smyly returned from Tommy John surgery to start the season.

Verlander should be able to have the edge in this pitching match up.

Game 2: Gerrit Cole, RHP (1-2, 3.24 ERA) vs. Adrian Sampson, RHP (0-1, 5.93 ERA)

Cole has been a bit of the hard luck recipient so far this season as he has gone at least 6 innings and limited opponents to 3 earned runs or less in each of his 4 starts, but still sports a 1-2 record. His most previous game was his second double digit strikeout score of the season, having punched out 11. His last time out against the Rangers featured an ornery ump who’s questionable calls may or may not have influenced the game, so we’ll see if he can have a better showing this time.

Texas counters with Adrian Sampson, who is coming off his first start of the season where he would get absolutely hammered by the A’s for 7 runs in 4 IP. He had previously made a couple of appearances out of the pen before that, including a masterful 6 innings against the Astros where he only gave up 1 run. He followed that with 3.2 IP with 1 run against the Angels before his ill-fated outing against the A’s.

I have to go with Cole here as Sampson’s peripheral numbers show that the one we saw as a starter may be the more realistic version of the two.

Game 3: Collin McHugh, RHP (3-1, 1.96 ERA) vs. Shelby Miller, RHP (0-1, 9.00 ERA)

There’s an argument to be made that McHugh has been the best pitcher in the rotation to start the season, having now dipped his ERA below 2 after 6 shutout innings in Oakland. It was his third 6-inning outing a row after doing the honors against Oakland and the Yankees before that. He’s also done a good job limiting the long ball, having only surrendered one in 23 innings so far this season.

Shelby Miller takes the mound for the Rangers and it has not been a very successful comeback attempt after Miller returned from TJ surgery. He has yet to go more than 4.1 innings in a start this season, with two coming at the hands of the Angels who have absolutely pummeled Miller. He did manage 3.2 against the Astros while only giving up 2 earned runs, which has been his best start so far this year.

I expect that McHugh will be the better pitcher on the night here unless Miller can really find whatever it was that made him a top prospect all those years ago.

Fun Fact

This is now the third straight season that the Astros have have had at least a 10-game winning streak.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, April 19th @ 7:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/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: Saturday, April 20th @ 7:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Rangers - 105.3 The Fan, KFLC 1270, KKDA 730 AM
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW+ / Rangers - FSSW

Game 2: Sunday, April 21st @ 2:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/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

  • 63%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (84 votes)
  • 29%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (39 votes)
  • 6%
    Rangers Win 2-1
    (8 votes)
  • 0%
    Rangers Sweep 3-0
    (1 vote)
132 votes total Vote Now