The Runner Sports

MayDay In AL West! Rangers On Road For 9; Astros Home For 10

Enjoying a 7.5 game lead over in-state rival Texas Rangers in the American League West, the Houston Astros look forward to their longest homestand of the season opening Friday.

While the Astros dig into 10 days of home cooking, the second-place Rangers will embark on a nine-game road trip, also beginning Friday.

Houston possesses nearly identical home (14-6) and road (15-6) records. That consistency comes with the territory for a team with the best record in baseball (29-12).

Texas in the Rear-View

Texas, however, is looking down the barrel of a dreadful 6-12 road record this season, but are riding on the high of a nine-game win streak, capping a perfect eight-game home stand.

Their perfect home stand may be a bit misleading, as the Rangers pushed aside the limping Padres (bottom of the NL West), the wanna-be A’s (gasping for air in the AL West), and the pitiful Phillies (battling the Marlins for the NL East cellar) at Arlington’s Globe Life Park.

And all they have to show for it is having picked up only a half-game in the American League West behind the dominant Astros. The Rangers, though, are two games above .500 for the first time this season.

The road will, literally, be a little tougher for Texas than the admittedly soft competition decimated at home: The Rangers will set out on a trip facing two out of three teams with winning records: Detroit (20-19), the 21-19 Red Sox, and the Blue Jays (18-24).

Right-hander Nick Martinez (0-2, 5.04 ERA in five starts) takes the mound Friday against lefty Daniel Norris (2-2, 4.34) and the Tigers. Making matters tougher for Texas, Martinez is winless in his last 11 starts, going back to August 2015, a stretch that’s tied for the fourth longest among all starters in the majors.

Astros’ Minute Maid Stand

Conversely, the Astros’ recent 10-2 streak came against the Yankees (Houston won three of four at Yankee Stadium against the AL East leaders), the lowly Marlins, the 16-22 Braves, and the AL West 3rd place Angels (22-21).

Coming up, Crush City will entertain winning teams throughout, including the two teams who are currently tied for second in the AL Central: The Indians (20-19), and the 20-19 Tigers, followed by the AL East second place (23-16) Orioles.

Preparing for the weekend series in Houston, the Indians’ SS Francisco Lindor reminded his team of the importance to take advantage of their Thursday off-day: “You have to make sure you rest, and then it is go time after that,” Lindor said. “It is just another series.

“They (the Astros) are playing the game the right way, and they are a very good team, so we have to make sure that we bring our A game. You just have to play the game the right way, and go hard against a team like that. They are playing really well, and they have good hitters.”

Right-hander Trevor Bauer will make his eighth start of the season, Friday night when he faces Houston. Bauer is coming off his third win after giving up three runs on seven hits with seven Ks against Minnesota. In six career starts against the Astros, Bauer has gone 6-0 with a 2.61 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 38 innings.

The Astros will counter with Charlie Morton, making his ninth start of the season. In his last outing, the righty yielded four runs on four hits and four walks, but struck out 10 in 5.2 innings against the Yankees to pick up his fifth win. His only start against the Indians came on July 3, 2015, when, in 6 innings, he allowed three runs on four hits with 12 strikeouts on his way to a 5-2 loss.

According to Statcast, 28 of Morton’s 54 strikeouts have come on his curveball, and 27 of those have been swinging. That total ranks 3rd in the majors for curves or knuckle-curves, though it’s second on the Astros behind MLB leader Lance McCullers, Jr.

Related: “Astros Have Charlie Morton, Don’t Need Quintana,” Said No One Ever. Until Now

“MayK” Or Break

Only three outcomes are possible for the Astros and Rangers in the next week-and-a-half:

  1. The Rangers could rally to an impressive (but improbable) 7-2 road record, while the Astros uncharacteristically pull, say, a 3-7 home stretch. That five-game swing in the loss column would make Texas an instant contender, heading into summer.
  2. The Astros could win most, if not all, of their 10 home games, while the Rangers lose most, if not all, of their nine away bouts. This would bury Texas into a near-insurmountable hole, hustling to decide if they’re buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.
  3. The end of May could bring a relative “push” series for each team, leaving the Astros still firmly atop the division.

In more ways than one, the Rangers better be shooting for #1.

Related: Texas Rangers Buried in Cellar. Authorities Alerted. Astros #1 Team of Interest

Brad Kyle

Brad Kyle

Here I am, meeting with Nolan Ryan at Dell Diamond in Round Rock, TX. One of us is trying to convince the other to take his 90 mph fastball, and get back into the game.

Needless to say, I've decided to spend my golden years, instead, crooning Sinatra at nursing homes, while reflecting on a life well-lived in the classroom, spinning rock'n'roll in '70s radio stations, and peddling wax in the record biz.

I'm a Houston native, having attended 'Stro games in Colt Stadium, the beloved Astrodome, and Minute Maid.

Join me at TRS for full Astros coverage, minor league peeks, player profiles, interviews, MLB historical perspective, and surprises!
Brad Kyle