The Texas Rangers open up the 2018 season with a 4-game home series against in-state rival and reigning World Series champs, the Houston Astros. Playing the best of the best could give Texas a quick indicator of they stack up against the rest of the league.
Not many people would find the positives in facing the reigning champs to open a new season. But for the Texas Rangers, this could be the perfect opportunity to see how the club will fare against contenders this year.
The Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 World Series in Game 7 of what proved to be an exciting glimpse of the future of the game. This Astros club is one full of young, homegrown talent that has more upside than they know what to do with. They added Justin Verlander late in the season to that young talent and put together a championship caliber team. Then they got even better. After adding former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, Gerrit Cole, to an already lethal rotation, the Astros are no doubt favorites to reach the World Series again.
Call to the Pen
The Texas Rangers have found themselves in a very different set of circumstances. After what everyone can agree was a disappointing 2017 season that culminated in the deadline trade of ace Yu Darvish and a 3rd place finish in the AL West, the Rangers entered the offseason looking to build. The core group was there with talented youngsters like Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo. Rumors connected them to big name pitching targets like Jake Arrieta and recently traded Yu Darvish. Adding an ace and depth pitching seemed like all that was needed for Texas to at least contend for a Wild Card spot. However, the Rangers defied expectations and signed a number of aging veteran pitchers looking to find the success they had early in their careers.
What To Watch For
The quickest way to see how the Rangers will match up against the rest of baseball is to be proverbially “thrown into the fire” and that’s what they face. Cole Hamels, who has become the de facto ace of this team, will get a chance to measure up against one of the most dangerous lineups in the majors. In fact, with a four game series, Texas will get to see how their new pitching staff can fair. Following Hamels, veterans Doug Fister, Mike Minor, and Matt Moore likely stepping on the mound to start the rest of the series. If these pitchers can battle against such a potent team, it could point to an ability to at least keep this season interesting.
Along with the starting rotation, we’ll also likely get to see Jeff Banister’s plans for the back end of the bullpen. With Matt Bush, Keone Kela, Jake Diekman and Alex Claudio, it will be interesting to see what roles Banister initially has these pitchers in.
At the plate, the young lineup for Texas will get a chance to face a stacked pitching staff headlined by Justin Verlander. Following Verlander the Rangers won’t catch a break as they’ll likely face Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr. and Gerrit Cole to finish off the series. That’s about as lethal a rotation as there is in baseball. Rougned Odor and Joey Gallo will get a chance to showcase new approaches at the plate. Nomar Mazara will look to solidify himself as a cornerstone of the lineup and Ryan Rua will make his case to be the go to left fielder for Texas.
There’s a chance that this series could get ugly quickly. But for the Rangers to get an upfront diagnosis of just how bad things may be this season, what better way than to face those who stand at the top of the mountain.
Comment below and tell us what you think the Rangers will look like against the Astros.