The Astros and Rangers Begin Four-Game Series With Texas-Sized AL West Implications
September brings the start of College Football and the NFL, two of the most exciting weekends of the year. They should probably both be national holidays. Football being back makes September a great sports month, and baseball divisional races make September the best sports month of the year rivaled only by October and playoff baseball.
There aren't many things greater than September in the MLB. This week's divisional showdown between the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers is no exception.
The Texas Rangers pitched Chi Chi Gonzales on Sunday against the Athletics so they could save new ace and left hander Cole Hamels for the spot light in Arlington. The Astros scored five runs in the top of the 9th with two outs against the Angels to keep a 1.5-game lead in the West.
The Rangers are sending three left-handed starters to the mound in the next four days. Meanwhile, the Astros are struggling mightily versus lefties, batting only .245.
Come to think of it, they are batting .244 against righties. How is this team leading the division again?
The Rangers have had success against the Astros in 2015, going 8-4 against them so far, including sweeps in May and August.
This series could have serious implications for both teams.
The Rangers, if they sweep the Astros for a third time this season, will lead the division by 2.5 games by late Thursday night. If the Astros sweep the Rangers, they would lead the division by 5.5 games and, depending on how the Angels play this weekend, would be sitting pretty to close the year out strong.
Of course, the two teams could split and we could be no closer to crowning a champion Friday morning than we are today. The teams still play one more series starting September 25. If the Rangers win two games in the series, they will claim the Silver Boot, which is given to the team who wins the season series between the two Lone Star State teams.
Premier pitching hasn't been associated with the Rangers much in the last two years, mostly due to injury. But the rotation they send to the mound this week is as close to premier as the Rangers could have hoped to be in 2015 after they lost Yu know who.
The Rangers will send Hamels (3-1, 4.07 ERA), Martin Perez (2-5, 5.43 ERA), Derek Holland (3-2, 3.13 ERA) and Colby Lewis (15-8, 4.45 ERA).
The Astros will counter with a rotation that has had a very solid year. The Rangers miss the hot-handed Fiers, but will run into the buzzsaw of Scott Kazmir (2-5, 3.13 ERA), Collin McHugh (16-7, 3.89 ERA), Dallas Keuchel (17-7, 2.22 ERA) and Lance McCullers (15-8, 4.45 ERA).
With both teams sending what will most likely be their playoff rotations to the mound (albeit out of order), the most intriguing matchup of the series will be Holland facing off with 17-game winner Keuchel in game three. This will be a pivotal game in the series regardless of what happens in the first two games.
While a 2-2 draw seems most likely, I think the Rangers can continue their hot streak on the road and win three out of four games this week against the Astros with the loss coming on Tuesday.
Man, September is fun.