Series Preview #32: Texas Rangers @ Houston Astros

So with a West coast game for the Astros that’s starting at 9 pm my time on a getaway day for some idiotic reason, I won’t have the full Astros stats for the week until much later than I’m willing to stay up. For that reason I’m gonna go back to the same format as last time and simply cover the Rangers with a quick snapshot of the Astros.

Honestly, I’m considering switching to this format on a regular basis as I’m starting to feel repetitive covering the Astros in every series preview. I’m also not sure how much a fanbase that regularly watches games is getting from the Astros coverage.

Anyways, I’d appreciate it if anyone who actually reads these previews would let me know in the comments if they prefer shorter previews focused mostly on the opposing team, or full coverage of both the Astros and the other team.

Also, just a quick note, most of this was written before the end of last night’s game.


MLB: Houston Astros at Los Angeles Angels

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros return home after a somewhat ho-hum road trip to open the second half. They’ve more or less tread water this week, alternating between flat and anemic and violently explosive offenses.

That Astros pitching has also left something to be desired as the team seems to be trying to to plug holes in the rotation. Houston would have to use openers for the first time ever during the series against the Angels as they tried to bridge the gap back to their top 3 starters. Things did not go so well as first Framber Valdez, then Héctor Rondón proved spectacularly ineffectual. The Astros did find relief in Cole and they have Miley going in the finale, so the chances for a series split against the Angels are pretty good.

As for the bats, they’ve been pretty hot at times, but have really struggled to string together the big hits. This hurt them in first two losses to the Angels as well as a couple of games in Arlington.

Yuli Gurriel has not had that problem in recent play though, having continued his torrid pace from before the All Star Break. Springer is also seemingly on fire once again, having cranked several homers this week while taking a good number of walks.

Hero Jake Marisnick has been red-hot with the bat, as well as in the hearts of fans as he’s faced adversity during this return childhood ballpark. He’s joined by Altuve, Bregman and Alvarez as the Astros players with the better weeks, though it’s not really fair to say everyone else had bad weeks.

The Astros find themselves in a familiar position as they watch a hard-charging Oakland team suddenly get their legs under them in the second half. While there’s still plenty of baseball left on the season, this will be a crucial homestand as Houston faces off against a couple of division rivals, including the A’s.

Injury update: Carlos Correa and Aledmys Diaz are currently on rehab assignment and are expected to rejoin the club in about a week. There is no solid date for the return as of this writing.

Since last we saw the Rangers they have extended their losing streak to 4 games thanks to a mini-sweep at home at the hands of the D-Backs. The Rangers’ season is currently floating in limbo as we near the now-final trade deadline of the season. They’re both too close to and too far from the second wild card spot to commit to selling or buying. The Astros will have a chance to help influence that decision as a poor week will almost certainly see someone like, say, Mike Minor in a new uniform.


MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Texas Rangers

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Not too much has changed in the four days since the Astros last saw the Rangers. The offense continues to be led by Joey Gallo, who has really broken out as one of the games’ elite hitters and is always a dangerous bat in the lineup. Shin-Soo Choo remains the steady veteran at the top of the order,

They’re both joined by Hunter Pence, who has returned from the IL to continue his descent into the dark side by playing for the Rangers. Unfortunately he’s good and damn lovable, so it’s hard to root against him. But then I do. Because he’s a Ranger.

The best component of the Rangers lineup after those three is probably Danny Santana, who has somehow transformed from a middling player into a high-average threat with a some pop. Elvis Andrus and Logan Forsythe are the most dangerous bats after that, as is Willie Calhoun on a much smaller sample size.

While OBP continues to remain in the acceptable range, the Rangers’ big-time threats really start to fall off at this point. That’s not to say that the rest of the lineup is garbage, but there’s definitely a decline in talent when you’re looking at the rest of the lineup. **coughRougnedOdorcough**

While Rangers are firmly lodged in the middle of the pack when it comes to their offense, one thing that they do do well is drive base runners in. They are currently 6th in the league for RBIs and 8th for slugging percentage when runners are in scoring position.


MLB: Houston Astros at Texas Rangers

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The bullpen hasn’t changed much since the Astros faced off against the Rangers in Arlington. The biggest difference is the addition of 16 earned runs to the ledgers of the bullpen in the past two games. A majority of that came in the second game where the Rangers were absolutely pummeled by the D-backs.

It also didn’t help that converted starter Jesse Chavez only managed to go 0.2 innings before getting pulled in that one. Although I guess he could sort of help the bullpen if he rejoins it, which seems likely at this point, but I guess that’s more of a philosophical question.

The back end of the Rangers pen consists of Shawn Kelley, Chris Martin, and Jose Leclerc. Leclerc’s name is really only in the mix because of the expectations on him from a successful 2018 campaign. He’s struggled at times in 2019, and is continually losing his shot at reclaiming the closer role from Kelley. None of these three relievers made an appearance during the Arizona series.

The numbers on the rest of the Rangers’ pen are not great, with a mix of either small sample size or ERA’s over 5. Brett Martin, Phillip Valdez, Kyle Bird, and Taylor Guerrieri round out the Rangers’ 7-man pen, with Martin being the only pitcher of the four to see significant playing time in 2019. Everyone else has just 10 or less innings under their belts so far in 2019.

Injury Report: The Rangers have a couple of players currently out on rehab assignment: Kyle Dowdy and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Both of this are listed as returning sometime in July but there’s no date set, so I suppose it’s possible we could see one or both activated this weekend.

Game 1: Mike Minor, LHP (8-4, 2.73 ERA)

Mike Minor has made the transition from bullpen arm to official ace of the Rangers staff, but his most recent outing was not his best work. He gave up 4 runs in five innings to these same Astros during that one, which followed a 4.1 IP outing. Of course Minor has been more good than bad this year, but he is vulnerable to giving up free passes, averaging 3.25 BB/9 in 2019. Minor has seen the Astros three times this season including his most recent outing, and has a 3.71 ERA against them

Game 2: Ariel Jurado, RHP (5-5, 4.63 ERA)

Jurado is also making his second consecutive start against the Astros after giving up 5 runs in 4 innings his last time out. Jurado has been a bit of a swing man this season, mostly starting in the rotation but also making a few relief appearances when called upon. While he has not made any other starts against the Astros, he did face them out of the pen twice back in May. During those 3.2 innings of relief work he surrendered 4 earned runs, which all came in his second outing.

Game 3: Lance Lynn, RHP (12-5, 3.87 ERA)

Though Minor has been the ace of the Rangers’ staff, Lance Lynn has been the Astro killer. In two starts against them he sports a 1.93 ERA that includes a 7-inning shutout performance by the big righty. Lynn has done an excellent job demonstrating that his sub-par performance last season, which had some people whispering that he was done, was a blip rather than a trajectory. He has proven imself to be the #2 starter in the Rangers’ rotation and is probably just as much trade bait as Minor is at this point.

Game 1: Friday, July 19th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Rangers – 105.3 The Fan, KFLC 1270 / Astros – KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Rangers – FSSW / Astros – ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 2: Saturday, July 20th @ 6:10 pm CDT
Listen: Rangers – 105.3 The Fan, KFLC 1270 / Astros – KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Rangers – FSSW / Astros – ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 3: Sunday, July 21st @ 1:10 pm CDT
Listen: Rangers – 105.3 The Fan, KFLC 1270 / Astros – KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Rangers – FSSW / Astros – ATT SportsNet-SW

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    Rangers Win 2-1

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