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2019 Series Preview #49: Texas Rangers @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (98-53, 1st in AL West) return to MMP for the final homestand of 2019 starting with two against the Rangers (74-77, 3rd in AL West)

Texas Rangers v Houston Astros Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Snapshot

Rangers

The Rangers start this series after getting outslugged by the A’s in a weekend series that saw them give up 14, 8, and 6 runs in consecutive games. They had been riding pretty high before that though, having won 6 of the previous 7 games before this weekend. The Rangers are having a middling season where unexpectedly good starting pitching has them hovering around .500, but the rest of the product has been unable to lift them any higher. This series marks the final meeting of the two interstate rivals but there’s nothing left to be decided as the Astros have already secured the Silver Boot for the third consecutive season.

Tampa Bay Rays v Texas Rangers Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

The Rangers’ lineup isn’t what it once was, and isn’t even what it was at the start of the season with a couple of key pieces currently missing. Even so, the offense has managed to look good lately, especially with recent call up Nick Solak impressing everyone in his first 25 games. He’s slashed .322/.433/.529 and already has 4 homers in his short big league career.

Danny Santana has also been one of the Rangers’ more dangerous hitters this week to go with a solid season. Shin-Soo Choo and Willie Calhoun also contribute length in the lineup for the Rangers as well as a little bit of pop, averaging 20 home runs between the two in 2019.

Most of the power for the team has been supplied by Rougned Odor, funnily enough, who leads the team with 27 bombs. He is otherwise just barely scraping by for the season with a pretty sad .205/.282/.435 slash line. Probably the biggest reason it’s Odor with the most home runs on the team is because Joey Gallo has spent a chunk of time on the IL instead of swatting long balls.

Speaking of, that may be coming to an end soon as Gallo is expected to return to the lineup in the next few days, but will probably miss this series. Old friend Hunter Pence is not so lucky though, as he appears to be out for the rest of the season with a back issue.

Like most of the league, the Rangers’ bullpen is chock full of kids who are getting a taste of MLB batting as the team looks more to its future than its present. They’ve certainly needed it as only two of their starters in the past six games have gone more than 4 innings.

Of course some of that is due to opener shenanigans, but the Rangers have had 13 separate relievers take the mound out of the pen this week, and none went more than 3.2 innings. Things have gone about as well as can be expected with that scheme, with some pitchers completely melting down and others with scoreless innings.

You can expect to see Jose Leclerc still holding down the 9th inning, with Rafael Montero and Emmanuel Case operating as set up men when necessary. Beyond that it could be anyone’s guess with so many arms sitting in the pen.

Astros

After stumbling against the A’s and losing just their second series at home this year, the Astros bounced back with a nice series sweep of the Royals. It was particularly refreshing to see the Astros get some big hits with runners in scoring position, which is an area where they struggled, especially in the series against Oakland. The Astros are firmly in control of their own destiny as we start the last two weeks of the season. They are currently tied with the Yankees for best record in the MLB and have a chance to break yet another regular season wins record for the franchise. The Astros’ magic number now sits at 4, meaning that there’s a solid chance they boys could be celebrating in the clubhouse sometime this weekend, possibly even Wednesday.

Houston Astros v Kansas City Royals Photo by John Sleezer/Getty Images

The Astros have had a week-long stretch that has seen contributions from up and down the lineup by a number of players. Josh Reddick in particularly has had one of his best weeks of the season, slashing .429/.455/.667 in the past 7 games. He hasn’t done as well as Yordan Alvarez, however, who seems to have busted out of a recent mini-slump to mash another three homers and add to his case for Rookie of the Year.

If you want to talk home runs, you have to talk about George Springer, who has been on a real power tear recently. Springer mashed 4 taters this week and is now just 1 behind Alex Bregman for team lead with 35 and 36, respectively. This makes them just the second pair of Astros teammates with 35 or more home runs in the same season. Jeff Bagwell (47) and Richard Hidalgo (44) were the only others, doing it back in 2000.

Bregman has also been on a strong run recently, muscling his way into the AL MVP conversation thanks to an absolutely bonkers month or so of play. He had a slow week for average going just 4-for-18, but did also walk 9 times, so he continues to put pressure on opposing pitching.

The catching platoon and Altuve round out the players who all had OPS’s north of 1.000 and significant playing time. That generally doesn’t include too many of the recent callups from the minors, but the Astros are seeing good things out of Stubbs, Straw, and Tucker in limited play.

Like the Rangers, the Astros have had a surge of young faces coming out of the pen as rosters have expanded. Cionel Perez, Bryan Abreu and Jose Urquidy have all joined the Astros’ pen since the end of Round Rock’s season, though Urquidy may be penciled in for another spot start after his most recent performance.

Recent games seem to see Rondon and Smith emerging as more important components of the bullpen. Both have pitched well lately and look poised to have their names in the mix for the postseason roster.

They join Harris and Osuna as back end pieces, both of whom have also been pitching well. This is especially good for Osuna, who has had some struggles in this season. Ryan Pressly is also making his way back from injury and seems to be progressing well if reports are to be believed.

Pitching Match Ups

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Game 1: Lance Lynn, RHP (14-10, 3.72 ERA) vs Justin Verlander, RHP (18-6, 2.58 ERA)

Lance Lynn is wrapping up what has become a bit of a make-good season for him after he had a down year in 2018. He seems to have proven that year to be a fluke and was briefly thought of as a dark horse for the AL CY earlier this year. He would show that form in his most recent start against the Rays, firing off 7 innings of 1-run ball while striking out 7. He did lay an egg against the White Sox just a few starts ago though, getting blown up for 7 runs on 11 hits in just 5.1 innings. Lynn has done well against the Astros in his three other starts against them, but the team was able to score well enough to hang the L on him in two of those three matches.

Astros Ace Justin Verlander will take the mound in this one and is looking to continue his Cy Young caliber season. Verlander has been absolutely unconscious in the second half and now leads all of MLB in WHIP (0.78), BAA (.168), innings (206), and ERA (2.58). He’s faced the Rangers five times already this season and has been in command in all but one of those games, which was back in early April. Since then he’s gone at least 6 innings and held the Rangers to 2 runs or less in 4 straight starts, including a 7-inning shutout performance.

Game 2: Kolby Allard, LHP (4-0, 4.34 ERA) vs Gerrit Cole*, RHP (17-5, 2.62 ERA)

*not officially announced

Kolby Allard is getting his second taste of the majors as a late-season call up for the Rangers, and it seems to have been mostly sour for him. That’s not to say that there haven’t been bright spots as he had a pretty solid stretch of games before his last appearance. However he has also been lit up once already and exited a couple of games early as well, so he’s not exactly wowing them so far in 2019. This will be his first career start against the Astros,

The Astros have not officially announced who will start this game, but if they elect to go on regular rest then it should be Gerrit Cole. Like Verlander, Cole is making a run at the AL Cy Young and really the only competition right now are between the two Astros’ Aces. Cole is currently on a 13-game winning streak, which is the longest in the majors since 2016. He has started 4 games against the Rangers this season and has not looked his best except for one of those. He had his worst game of the year against them back in late April, where he gave up 9 runs in 4.1 innings.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Tuesday, September 17th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Rangers - 105.3 The Fan, KFLC 1270 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Rangers - FSSW / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 2: Wednesday, September 18th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Rangers - 105.3 The Fan, KFLC 1270 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Rangers - FSSW / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 88%
    Astros Sweep 2-0
    (182 votes)
  • 9%
    Series Split 1-1
    (19 votes)
  • 1%
    Rangers Sweep 2-0
    (4 votes)
205 votes total Vote Now