The Runner Sports

With Texas In Rear View, Astros Must Best Rest Of West

The Houston Astros avoided a sweep at the hands of the Texas Rangers Wednesday (September 14), posting an 8-4 win, but moral victories won’t get them to the playoffs.

While the American League Western Division pennant is all but impossible to claim, Houston closes the season against the rest of the West, trying to grab a Wild Card spot.

Related: Regular Updates: Astros’ Run to the Wild Card Check back often for game action and Astro news, all the way to the end of the Wild Card race!

Friday’s 6-0 win in Seattle brought the Astros to within 4 games of Toronto and Baltimore in the AL Wild Card race, and 10.5 behind the division-leading Rangers (entering play Sept. 17).

Shootout at the Oy Vey Corral

“I want to see them (Texas) again,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said in a post-game interview. “If we see them again, it means we’re meeting in October, so bring it. I hope we’re there.”

Well documented has been the utter annihilation of the Astros’ 2016 playoff hopes by the Rangers…and only the Rangers. What may not be as well-known is the true extent of the “scorched earth” damage the Arlington nine have imposed on Houston’s season (and, it could be argued, each player’s psyche).

ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted earlier in the week, after Monday’s (Sept. 12) first of a 3-game series with Texas in Houston: “When Houston and Texas haven’t played each other in ’16, the Astros are 72-55, the Rangers, 72-56.”

A Good Ol’ Fashioned Kick in the Astros

Texas beat up the Astros like a belligerent big brother, building a debilitating 15-4 head-to-head record against their in-state rivals, “singlehandedly wrecking the Astros’ season,” as Astros beat writer Brian McTaggart (MLB.com) tweeted, and may have understated.

Come in at just 10-9 for the season’s head-to-head, and the Astros affect a radical change in the West landscape, even challenging the Rangers for the division lead.

In fact, the Rangers’ 15-4 record against the Astros ties their record for the second-most wins against any opponent in club history. Texas was 17-2 against the Astros in 2013, and are 53-23 against them over the past four years.

Moreover, going back to 2009, Texas and the Astros have played 100 games. The Rangers are 44 games over .500 in those match-ups (72-28).

It has been suggested by many that the Rangers are in the Astros’ heads; I would push that the Rangers are not only there, but resting comfortably, kicking back in Barcaloungers, and hogging the remote. The Rangers are the cat; the Astros, their jingly ball.

Astros fans shouldn’t lay all the blame at the doorstep of Globe Life Park, as convenient as that may be. Starting the season with a 7-17 April pretty much inserted the dagger; Rougned and his rough Rangers merely twisted it…15 times (evil glee, optional). Three of those 17 April losses were at the hand of the Rangers, in a combined 16-10 series score.

How the West Was One

The Texas Rangers are 34-10 (.773) in one-run games this season, setting a modern record for winning percentage in one-run games, topping the 2012 Orioles, who were 29-9 (.763). This reporter wants to avoid tears on the keyboard, so the number of one-run wins the Rangers collected against H-Town…oh, what the heck: Nine of those 34 one-run wins came against the Astros, including two earlier in the week (4-3 and 3-2, Monday and Tuesday). Houston one-upped the Rangers, 7-6, in Arlington on September 4.

The Rangers have also managed 45 come-from-behind wins this season (coming into play September 17), and have 8 wins when trailing after 8 innings (most in MLB).

Home on the Range

The Rangers more than held their own, too, against the rest of the West (entering play Sept. 16), breaking even with the Angels (8-8, with three games remaining against), 7-6 vs. the A’s (with six games left down the stretch), and a dominant 12-7 against the Mariners. The Rangers end the season with three each against Milwaukee and the Rays, two teams with sub-.500 records. 80% (12 of 15) of the Rangers’ remaining games are at home, where they are a decisive 47-22 this year.

The Astros finished their 13-game stretch against 1st-place teams (Sept. 2-14) with a 5-8 record against the Rangers (6 games), the Cubs, and Cleveland. Their starting rotation ERA in that span was a dismal 7.17.

No Rangers on the (Regular Season) Horizon

Houston (76-70) rounds out their remaining 16 games of the season (coming into games of Sept. 16) with six against the 78-68 Mariners, three facing the A’s (63-82), and seven against the Angels (63-82). Only 7 of the remaining 16 are at home, where the Astros are 41-33. They’re two games under .500 (35-37) in road games.

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