The Runner Sports

Astros Employ Shovel, Not Broom, To Dispatch Rangers; Won’t Start Verlander Until ALDS

In most seasons, when the Houston Astros are only aware of the playoffs thanks to newspaper subscriptions, winning the Silver Boot is a source of pride and accomplishment. The size 15 trophy with the hand-made spur has been the annual prize for the winner of each season’s head-to-head series against the Texas Rangers dating back to 2001, when the Astros were in the National League.

Outscoring the Rangers in Arlington, Monday through Wednesday (September 25-27), a debilitating 37-7, Houston won the Lone Star Series (and thus, the Boot), handily, 12-7, and probably couldn’t care less this season.

Monday’s 11-2 win secured the Boot for the Astros, while Tuesday’s 14-3 burying knocked Texas out of any possible playoff contention, and Wednesday’s 12-2 whuppin’ completed the sweep.

Many Astros fans, under similar circumstances, would consider all that a full season, and enter the offseason awaiting any December trades that might develop. But, in 2017, the Astros happily left Texas in their charter jet’s rear-view mirror, and began a four-game series in Boston, Thursday. The Astros continued their marauding ways, and marched to their 99th win, leaving the Red Sox bewildered to the tune of 12-2.

The ‘Stros’ 100th win of the season came Friday night, showing the Rose Hose they could win the close ones, too, doing so, 3-2.

Houston ended the season winning 14 of 17. In fact, through Thursday’s scoring avalanche, Houston is the first team to win four straight games by 9 or more runs since the Detroit Wolverines in 1887, the year they won the title. Of course, the Wolverines disbanded the very next year, but we’ll delve no further into that.

With Justin Verlander taking the mound in Wednesday’s game (while holding the Rangers to two runs and six hits in 6 IP, striking out 11), this allows Houston to hold him to start the first game of the American League Division Series, October 5, at Minute Maid Park. The Astros will face their weekend opponent Red Sox in that first round of the playoffs, with Verlander toeing the rubber against ace lefty Chris Sale.

Verlander (15-8), famously acquired in the final two seconds of the August 31 trade deadline from Detroit, ends the regular season sporting a 5-0 record and a 1.06 ERA with Houston. He’s 10-3 with a 1.92 ERA in his past 16 starts overall.

Verlander, in fact, is the second pitcher to start his Astros career with a win in each of his first five outings. Roger Clemens went 7-0 in 2004.

During his career, Verlander has started 16 postseason games, enjoying a 7-5 record, with a 3.39 ERA, including Game 1 of the 2006 and 2012 World Series while with the Tigers.

Houston Astros 2017 AL West Champs Gear

Notes From a Launch Pad’s Richard Justice provides this encouraging note: The Astros’ starting rotation is 11-1 with a 2.00 ERA in their last 13 games, coming into Thursday’s contest. Game 1 and 2 starters Dallas Keuchel (2.00 ERA) and Verlander (1.35 ERA) enter the ALDS at their best.

Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle‘s Jake Kaplan reminds us that Houston’s perennial hit leader, Jose Altuve, is astoundingly (and even spookily) consistent: Coming into the Boston series, Altuve is slashing a 2017 first half line of .347/.417/.551, while his 2nd half line is a near-duplicate .347/.407/.554! As teammate George Springer has suggested, Altuve might just be a living video game figure!

The Astros are 18-7 in September (following the Texas series), which ties as the 2nd-largest win total in that month in club history, joining 1981 and 1986. Houston went a near-insurmountable 20-7 in 2004. Houston finished September 21-8.

Astro fan and Houstonian, Stephanie Dyan, visiting Boston for the series, happily tweeted: “Had a few people around Boston who saw our Astros gear and told us, ‘Go Astros! Y’all deserve to win it this year!’ Then they asked how the city is doing. The love is real, y’all!”

Related: Recalling 1995 NBA Champs, Houston Rockets, Astros Fans Echo Rudy T’s “Never Underestimate the Heart of a Champion”

Brad Kyle

Brad Kyle

Brad Ramone with (L-R) Dee Dee, Johnny, and Joey Ramone, backstage at Houston's Liberty Hall, July, 1977.

Johnny, the Ramones' influential guitarist, who passed away in 2004 at 55, was an avid baseball and New York Yankees fan since childhood. He even once ranked baseball above rock'n'roll in a personal Top 10 List!

Like Johnny, my love for rock is only equaled by my love for baseball and my hometown Houston Astros, present and past!

At TRS, you'll get full Astros coverage, minor league peeks, player profiles, interviews, MLB historical perspective, and maybe a little rock'n'roll!
Brad Kyle