Can the Rangers catch the Astros in the AL west?

joshmcswain
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The Battle for the Silver Boot seems destined to mean something much more this season as the Astros and Rangers sit on top of the AL west and seem destined to fight it out for divisional supremacy. But can the Rangers catch up with their in-state rival? Earlier this week on baseball tonight Tim Kurkjian and Aaron Boone debated whether the Rangers could catch the Astros over the last month and a half of the season. Here are their answers:

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Neither of them think the Rangers will be able to catch the Astros, but conceded that the Rangers should not be counted out. Boone also pointed to the strength of the Astros rotation as his main point of emphasis. It’s easy to see why as the Astros have allowed the second fewest runs since the All-Star break and have the third best batting average against. Texas is 25th in both categories.

Aug 1, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Cole Hamels (35) waves to fans after leaving the game against the San Francisco Giants at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

But on the bright side, Cole Hamels has thrown well in his last two outings after giving up five solo homeruns in his first two starts as a Ranger. If he gains his top form back and Derek Holland can shake off the rust quickly, the Rangers can have a quality rotation. Those two with Yovani Gallardo, Colby Lewis and Martin Perez, who is starting to get into a groove despite lackluster overall numbers this season, can give the Rangers a deep rotation heading into the thick of the playoff race.

However, the Astros offense has been sluggish since the break, while the Rangers offense has surged. Texas is 6th in the majors in runs while the Astros are just 22nd. Furthermore the Rangers are second in the majors in batting average since the break at .276 as a team while the Astros are 25th at .244. Still, Houston keeps mashing homeruns, among the most in the majors since the break. As long as they keep hitting longballs and stealing bases their offense seems destined to stay afloat. But we’ve seen teams that are dependent on the longball go down before once the power goes out of the bats, and it could happen again. But the Astros have an unusually high dependence on the longball–since the break over 3/8th of their total bases have come off homeruns. Compare that to Texas who has had 27.66% of their total bases from homeruns since the break. The Rangers are the more versatile offense and can beat teams in more ways than the Astros can offensively.

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Can the Rangers win the division? Yes. But it will be an uphill battle because Houston shows no signs of slowing down. The Rangers will likely have to win about five of the seven games they have left against the Astros in order to get within striking distance down the stretch. But the Rangers have fared well against the Astros this season, winning eight of the first 12 meetings. Don’t give up hope Rangers fans, only 4.5 games separate the teams. It’s doable but without a doubt it will require a great final five and a half weeks of the season.

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