Texas Rangers: On Deck-Houston Astros

Jun 3, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus (1) and Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) during the game at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 3, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus (1) and Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) during the game at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

After a strong series in the nation’s capital, the Texas Rangers look to stay hot as they head into Houston to resume the Lone Star series with the Astros. The Rangers hope they are catching the Astros at the right time as they’ve lost four of their past six games.

I’m wondering if maybe I should predict a sweep every series from now on. I’ll take being dead wrong if it means the Rangers keep winning.

But in all seriousness, I think the Rangers surprised everyone when they swept the National League leading Nationals in their own ball park. I mean, the Nats have the best offense in the NL but the Rangers staff held them to just six runs across three games.

And they hit them too. They faced three of the best pitchers the league has to offer, including last year’s NL Cy Young winner, and beat them all. While most of their runs came off the bullpen, especially in the last two games, they outscored the Nationals 16-6 on the series. That’s a pretty dang good team they just swept.

But perhaps most encouraging was the bullpen. In ten innings of work, the bullpen allowed just two runs on six hits. They combined to strike out fourteen. That’s the kind of performance we were expecting to get from the pen before the season began. If that can continue, the Rangers will be a tough team to put away.

Plus, Austin Bibens-Dirkx dazzled in the second start of his career. He had a tough assignment, matching up across from Max Scherzer, but he out-dueled him on Sunday. After a solo shot to open the game then a single from Harper, he retired the next nineteen batters in a row. He ended up tossing 94 pitches through seven innings and allowed just the one run on three hits.

The Astros on the other hand, have run into a bit of a rough stretch. With their ace sidelined by a neck injury, they’ve dropped four of their past six games. The Angels actually put up 12 on them in Sunday’s loss.

The Rangers need their hot streak to continue as they head into Houston Monday night. Here’s how the series looks to play out:

Monday, June 12 (Darvish vs. Musgrove)

The last time Yu Darvish took the mound against the Astros, it didn’t go his way. They made Yu work and though he only walked one batter, he tossed 104 pitches through just five innings. All in all it wasn’t a bad outing. He recorded eight strikeouts and gave up seven hits. All three of the Astros runs off Yu came on a home run in the top of the fifth.

The good thing is, Darvish has had a lot of success at Minute Maid Park in his career. In five starts, he gone 3-1 with a 2.34 ERA. All of this while striking out hitters to the tune of 13.5 K/9. Those are some impressive numbers and the Texas Rangers hope that history repeats itself on Monday.

But what’s probably most in the Rangers favor is the fact that Joe Musgrove is starting for the Astros. The only game the Rangers have taken from the ‘Stros was the one Musgrove started. He lasted just four innings but the Rangers got their money’s worth in that time, putting up five runs.

Musgrove has struggled all season, posting a 4.89 ERA en route to a 4-4 record. Only once has he lasted seven full innings, though that was in his last start so who knows, maybe he’s starting to figure things out. I doubt it though.

Prediction: The Rangers win as Darvish bounces back from his last start against the ‘Stros and Texas’s bats stay hot.

Tuesday, June 13 (Martinez vs. McCullers Jr.)

Nick Martinez didn’t start in the last series with the Astros but he did come in for long relief in the final game. He allowed just one hit and no runs in 3.1 innings while striking out two. However, Martinez does have a start against Houston earlier this year and it did not go so well.

In 5.1 innings of work, the Astros put up seven runs on him, thanks largely to three of their nine hits leaving the ballpark. Let’s hope the relief version of Nick Martinez is the one that shows up on Tuesday.

Lance McCullers Jr. will take the mound for the Astros. After a fantastic May, McCullers pitched another gem in his last start against the Kansas City Royals, giving up just one run on two hits through seven innings.

The Rangers though, teed off on him the last time these two teams faced each other. They put up four runs and collected six hits in just 4.1 innings. Unfortunately, Andrew Cashner couldn’t get things done on the other side of the ball so the Astros still got the win.

Prediction: It’s a close one  as both teams score at least four runs but the Astros go on to win it. (Not going to lie, a part of me is calling a loss because I’m secretly hoping that by doing so, it makes the Rangers win)

Wednesday, June 14 (Cashner vs. Peacock)

Andrew Cashner got roughed up in his last outing against the ‘Stros. They jumped all over him, collecting 11 hits in six innings. It could have been worse, they somehow managed to score just five runs. And only two of the eleven hits went for extra bases while another two were merely infield singles. So they weren’t killing the ball but they were putting it in play.

The first time Cashner faced them, that time in Minute Maid, he went six innings as well. He allowed just three hits in that game, though three runs also scored. If the Rangers are going to win, they’ll need that Cashner and the one that gave up just one run through seven innings to the Nationals.

Since becoming a starter, Brad Peacock’s ERA has been an ugly 5.00. Unfortunately, his best start came against the Texas Rangers. He went six innings; he hasn’t made it through the fifth in any of his others. The two runs he allowed is the second fewest he’s had in a start and his nine strikeouts is the most. The one good thing is, the Rangers hit the only home run he’s given up all year.

The last start Peacock made though lasted just three innings. An Angels team currently missing Mike Trout was able to get seven hits and score four runs off him in that time. If the Angels can do that without their MVP, the Rangers most certainly are capable of doing the same.

Prediction: Cashner pitches more like he did against the Nationals and Peacock can’t put together another successful start against a surging Rangers lineup. The bullpen does a great job and holds on to the lead for the victory.

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 (6-4); Cleveland (1-5); Toronto (5-5); Detroit (3-1); Oakland (4-1); Royals (3-4); Twins (3-0); Rays (2-1)