Series Preview: Houston Astros @ Texas Rangers - Snake in my boot

Get this guy in the Texas Legends race - USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in many, many years, the Silver Boot is in danger of leaving Arlington and it isn't because the Astros are good

Series Schedule:

Monday, July 07 7:05: RHP Jarred Cosart vs. RHP Miles Mikolas

Tuesday, July 08 7:05: RHP Brad Peacock vs. RHP Nick Martinez (RHP Phil Irwin?)

Wednesday, July 09 7:05: LHP Dallas Keuchel vs. RHP Yu Darvish

The Rangers and Astros play 19 times per season now as division rivals. The first team to win 10 games is declared the season series winner and is awarded the coveted Silver Boot. Before last season, when it was called the Lone Star Series, the Rangers had won the season series six straight years. Last season, in Houston's first season in the American League, the Rangers won the Boot again by beating the Astros 17 of 19 times.

In the history of the Silver Boot, the Astros have won the season series against the Rangers just three times over 13 seasons. The last time the Astros wrestled the Boot away from the Rangers was in 2006. Before that, the only other time the Boot resided in Houston was in '02-'03. In 2005, the year the Astros went to the World Series, the Rangers won the season series 4-2. Since then, the Rangers have gone 46-22 against the Astros.

So, you know, the Rangers have dominated the Astros in this brief decade or so "rivalry." I guess we all figured the Astros would eventually catch up with the Rangers and we'd see a true battle for the Silver Boot. I guess we didn't figure that the Rangers would catch up with the Astros in being bad at playing baseball and we'd see a Silver Boot battle of attrition. But that's where we are. The Astros aren't good yet and the Rangers aren't good anymore.

This season series is tied at three games apiece. The first team to 10 wins takes the Boot. I can take being bad and having bad injury luck. I can take Phil Irwin emergency starts and Carlos Pena desperation. But I can't take losing the Silver Boot. Not now. Not ever.

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Here are the official Tank 2014 outcomes facing the Rangers come Thursday:

  • Rangers sweep - The Rangers are ahead of the Astros in the standings by 6 games and are four wins from the Boot
  • Rangers win 2 of 3 - The Rangers are ahead of the Astros in the standings by 4 games and are five wins from the Boot
  • Astros win 2 of 3 - The Rangers are ahead of the Astros in the standings by 1 game and the Astros are five wins from the Boot
  • Astros sweep - The Rangers and Astros are tied for the worst record in baseball and the Astros are four wins from the Boot

Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups against the team that drew up the blueprint on tanking:

  • Miles Mikolas: He's pitched like five innings, k? - Only career start: 3 runs allowed in 5.1 innings
  • Jarred Cosart: 8-6, 5.81 K/9, 3.67 BB/9, .288 BABIP, 71.4% LOB, 3.90 FIP, 4.15 xFIP, 1.2 WAR - Last three starts: 7 runs allowed in 20.2 innings

Thoughts: Part of the reason the Astros have been better this season, along with some talented bats finally arriving from the minors, is the fact that guys like Jarred Cosart and Dallas Keuchel have begun to turn themselves from transitional punching bags to actual viable American League starters.

All hail the Lizard King! Miles Mikolas didn't get a win in his first career start last time out but he pitched well enough to get one. The Rangers, being the Rangers in 2014, blew a lead for Mikolas and so now he'll get his second chance against the soft landing that is the Houston Astros.

  • Nick Martinez: 1-6, 3.90 K/9, 4.16 BB/9, .300 BABIP, 71.7% LOB, 5.96 FIP, 5.87 xFIP, -0.3 WAR - Last three starts: 12 runs allowed in 14.1 innings
  • Brad Peacock: 2-5, 7.96 K/9, 4.85 BB/9, .308 BABIP, 72.4% LOB, 4.33 FIP, 4.42 xFIP, 0.6 WAR - Last three appearances: 7 runs allowed in 16.0 innings

Thoughts: Brad Peacock is another success story for the Astros albeit on a smaller scale than Keuchel and Cosart. Getting decent innings out of a guy who was pretty terrible a year ago is something a team in infinite rebuild mode can hang their hat on. If nothing else, it shows these guys are learning from their mistakes.

Nick Martinez hurt himself pretending to be a hitter thanks to National League baseball and may not be able to pitch in this game. If he can't go, the mighty Phil Irwin was held back from his start in Triple-A Round Rock to take his place.

  • Yu Darvish: 8-4, 11.03 K/9, 3.21 BB/9, .311 BABIP, 79.5% LOB, 2.74 FIP, 3.14 xFIP, 3.3 WAR - Last three starts: 8 runs allowed in 19.0 innings
  • Dallas Keuchel: 8-5, 6.96 K/9, 2.24 BB/9, .301 BABIP, 75.2% LOB, 3.14 FIP, 3.14 xFIP, 2.3 WAR - Last three starts: 13 runs allowed in 18.0 innings

Thoughts: Yu Darvish against the Astros is usually a treat. But Darvish hasn't really faced the Astros since they infused their lineup with George Springer and Jon Singleton or since Jose Altuve became the hottest hitter on the planet. Still, it's perfect game or bust!

And here's Dallas Keuchel as likely the best pitching story for the Houston Astros in years. Keuchel has struggled a little bit in his last few starts but on the year he's been one of the better pitchers in the American League. That is pretty amazing. Though he likely won't win it, he's among the five pitchers that are up for the final spot on the All-Star team. The fact that the Astros could have a starter on the All-Star team is not something anyone would have thought before the season began, I'd imagine.

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Houston Astros (36-54, 5th Place in AL West)

Rangers' Record vs. Houston: 3-3 (2-1 at The Ballpark)

Houston's Recent Results: 0-4 swept on the road against the Anaheim Angels

Houston's Road Record: 16-28

The Ballpark Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 109/89 - Runs: 111/104

SB Nation Astros Blog: The Crawfish Boxes

Match-up: (as of 07/07) Rangers Astros Advantage
Batting (RAR) -35.0 (22nd) -27.7 (18th) Horrifying
Base Running (RAR) 3.1 (8th) -1.0 (21st) Irrelevant
Starters (RAR) 24.9 37.2 Shameful
Bullpen (RAR)

30.4 (3rd)

-5.0 (29th) Wasteful
Defense (UZR) -17.5 (24th) -43.7 (29th) Embarrassing
Overall (UZR + RAR) 5.9 -40.2

Depressing

Questions to Answer:

  • Do you want to see the Rangers gain first pick in the 2015 draft even if it means watching the worst baseball we've seen in a decade?
  • Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (Well if Phil Irwin gets called up how could I not want to watch Phil Irwin!?)
  • Over/Under: 3.5 times the broadcast brings up the fact that Miles Mikolas once ate a live lizard tonight?
  • What's your guess for line (IP/H/K/BB/ER) by Yu Darvish on Wednesday against his favorite team to pitch against?
  • Yea or Nay: The Rangers hold the Silver Boot in 2014?
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