Texas Rangers: On Deck-Houston Astros

Jun 8, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish (11) stares at Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) during the fifth inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 8, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish (11) stares at Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) during the fifth inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

The Texas Rangers and Houston Astros get their second crack at each other as they resume the Lone Star Series Friday night. The Rangers have owned the series the past couple of seasons but the Astros jumped out to an early 3-1 lead on them when they first clashed earlier this year.

The Lone Star Series technically began back in 2001 but ever since the Astros joined the AL West in 2013, it’s blown up to a whole new level. Overall, since 2001 the Texas Rangers have won the series 12 out of 16 times.

But lately, the Rangers have truly dominated the Astros. The first year the Astros joined the AL West, the Rangers went 17-2 against them. The Astros sneaked a series out in 2014 (11-8) but it’s been the Rangers ever since. The past two years, they’ve gone 28-10.

It seems that when the Silver Boot is on the line, the Rangers step up their game. When they had a rough start to the 2015 season, it was playing the Astros that helped turn their year around. One can only hope that’s true of this year as well.

Unfortunately, the Astros have been steam-rolling everyone they’ve faced recently. In their last series with the Twins, they put up 40 runs in just three games. The 16 they allowed would normally pose a problem but not when the offense is mashing. They’ll be riding a seven game win streak heading into Arlington.

The Rangers on the other hand, have not done too hot lately. They’ve won just two of their past nine games to drop them back below .500 on the season. They are 12 games behind the Astros and need to have success in this series if they want to have even a chance at catching them.

Here’s a look at the matchups this series has to offer:

Friday, June 2 (Darvish vs. Keuchel)

If you can catch just one game of this series, this is the one to watch. It’s a battle of the aces between rival teams. A showdown that will be decided by who blinks first. These two pitchers didn’t get to test their mettle against each other in the last series and they’ll be chomping at the bit to face off against one another.

Yu Darvish has definitely been the Rangers ace this season. He leads the team in wins, strikeouts, quality starts and has the highest K/9 amongst the starters.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t been great against the Astros in his career. He’s 4-4 in his lifetime but hasn’t collected a win while facing them since the 2013 season. He does, however, have a near perfect game against the Astros. Back in 2013, Yu was just one out away from a perfect game before Marwin Gonzalez singled up the middle to ruin it.

Dallas Keuchel meanwhile, looks like he did back in his Cy Young winning season in 2015. He’s 8-0 on the season with a 1.81 ERA. In the ten games he’s started, the Astros have lost just once thanks to a bullpen implosion.

Fortunately, the Rangers have fared pretty well against Keuchel in the past. He’s just 5-7 with a 4.24 lifetime ERA when facing the Rangers. Those numbers are even worse when you look at the games he pitched in Globe Life Park. He’s 1-4 with an ERA of 6.46 when taking the mound there. Even in the two starts he made in 2015, he allowed 17 hits and 11 runs in just 11.2 innings of work.

Prediction: It’s a close game most of the way but the Rangers get to Keuchel for the win. Yu Darvish pitches a gem and Jose Leclerc looks good in his return from the DL.

Saturday, June 3 (Cashner vs. McCullers)

If you were to just look at his record of 2-4, you would probably assume Andrew Cashner has not been pitching well. That’s not the case however. His ERA of 2.92 is better than even Darvish’s but he hasn’t been able to get the same kind of run support. The Rangers failed to score more than three runs in a game he pitched until his sixth start. He doesn’t strike a lot of men out but what he does do well is produce weak contact.

Cashner faced the Astros the first time around and actually pitched well enough to give the Rangers a chance at a win. In six innings of work, he gave up just two earned runs on three hits. It was the bullpen that blew the game for him.

Lance McCullers Jr. has been almost as dominant as Keuchel this season. He’s currently 6-1 with a 2.48 ERA and leads the team in strikeouts with 73. And unfortunately, he’s gotten better as the season has progressed. In the month of May, his ERA was a mere 0.99 in six starts. His record was 4-0.

McCullers also pitched against the Rangers in their first series and though he didn’t get credited with a decision, he held them to just two runs on six hits. The Astros ended up winning the game 6-2.

Prediction: The Astros win as McCullers continues his string of victories. Cashner pitches well but the bullpen can’t finish out the game.

Sunday, June 4 (Peacock vs. Perez)

Martin Perez is not having the season he wanted to. He’s 2-5 on the year with a 4.19 ERA. Not all of it is his fault. He can’t get much run support and it’s tough to win when you don’t score. However, his 1.57 WHIP is as high as it’s been since his rookie season and he’s not striking enough people out to counteract that stat.

Against the Astros, Perez has actually had a decent amount of success in his career. He’s faced them nine times and has gone 5-3 in those games. The ‘Stros have hit just .241 against him. His WHIP has been a much better 1.19 when facing them and his ERA is just 2.49. If the Rangers are going to have a chance at a win, Perez will have to put up numbers more consistent with these rather than the ones he’s had all year.

Brad Peacock started off the year in the bullpen but has recently made his way to a starting role. It’s not an unfamiliar position, he’s started 48 games in his career. On the year, he’s 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA. Those numbers are only that low though because of his time spent in the bullpen. Neither of those wins came from the starter position and he has an ERA of 4.00 in that time.

As a starter, Peacock has faced the Rangers five times. He’s 1-3 in those games. He also faced the Rangers in their first series. He went two innings in relief and gave up just one hit. The Rangers did score once on him thanks to his own balk. Other than that, they weren’t able to get much done against him.

Prediction: The Astros win thanks to a strong performance from their bullpen and some clutch hits.

Common Opponents

Rangers: Seattle (1-5); Angels (3-3); Cleveland (0-3); Toronto (1-2); Detroit (2-1); Oakland (1-3); Royals (4-0); Twins (1-2); Rays (1-2)

Astros: Seattle (5-2); Angels (5-2); Cleveland (1-5); Toronto (5-5); Detroit (3-1); Oakland (4-1); Royals (1-2); Twins (3-0); Rays (2-1)