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Series Preview: Houston Astros @ Texas Rangers - Silver Sanctuary

The Rangers begin their first long homestand of 2014 against the crash test dummies of the American League

The Rangers paid $11M for exactly this last year
The Rangers paid $11M for exactly this last year
Bob Levey

Series Schedule:

Friday, April 11 7:05: RHP Scott Feldman vs. RHP Yu Darvish

Saturday, April 12 7:05: RHP Jarred Cosart vs. RHP Tanner Scheppers

Sunday, April 13 2:05: LHP Brett Oberholtzer vs. LHP Martin Perez

Last year the Houston Astros were legendarily bad. They were probably the worst team since the 1962 Mets. So, with that in mind, the 2013 Rangers went 17-2 against the Astros in can what only be described as taking care of business. With the Lone Star Series a blowout, the Silver Boot remained in John Blake's closet for a seventh consecutive year.

Maybe the Rangers don't continue their 90-win season streak if the Astros don't move to the American League before 2013. But maybe the A's don't win 96 games without the Astros on their schedule for the first time. It was, after all, a two-way street down Crawford to pick up your free wins last year.

The Astros aren't going to be good in 2014. They're not close to formed under the watchful incubation of GM Jeff Luhnow and House Ryan just yet. Someday soon we might hear 'The Rains Of Castamere' playing from below us, but for now, these are still games the Rangers have to win simply because they should. You can bet the A's will make a meal of every series they reserve against Houston.

So, with the Astro rebuild still in the blueprint stage, the Rangers have to pick up the wins on the schedule while they have them. This trial is known as The Battle for the Silver Boot. Right now, the Rangers only put out the silver-plated boot. They're holding back the sterling Silver Boot for more polite company and a worthy opponent.

It's doubtful that the Rangers will go 17-2 against Houston again this season. The Astros are improved, even if only moderately. But even if the Astros were worse, 17-2 is an improbability for any team against any other team. Even the worst team in a decade can put together nine innings from time to time. That's why every loss to the Astros stings a little. It has to hurt knowing you left a win out on the field.

The Battle for the Silver Boot begins in earnest another day. Right now, it's gotta be a Beating for the Silver Boot.

Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups against the team of traitorous Ryans:

  • Yu Darvish: 1-0, 7.71 K/9, 1.29 BB/9, .318 BABIP, 100.0% LOB, 1.95 FIP, 4.35 xFIP, 0.4 WAR
  • Scott Feldman: 2-0, 2.63 K/9, 2.63 BB/9, .122 BABIP, 91.7% LOB, 4.19 FIP, 5.61 xFIP, 0.1 WAR

Thoughts: It's the original victim of the Ranger Opening Day Starter Curse against the man smart enough to avoid it. Darvish makes his first start at home after debuting in Tampa last week. Feldman returns to Texas as a member of the Houston Astros and he's probably at least a little bit embarrassed about that.

Last year, Darvish did arguably his best work against the Astros. As I'm sure you remember, he was one Marwin Gonzalez away from a perfect game but he also had a career high 15 strikeout game in Houston where he took a perfect game into the 6th and a no-hitter into the 8th. Then again, Feldman pitched seven scoreless innings against the Rangers in an April start last year. I'm calling dueling no-nos.

  • Tanner Scheppers: 0-1, 5.00 K/9, 4.00 BB/9, .432 BABIP, 63.1% LOB, 5.24 FIP, 5.37 xFIP, 0.1 WAR
  • Jarred Cosart: 1-1, 5.73 K/9, 3.27 BB/9, .176 BABIP, 62.5% LOB, 4.24 FIP, 4.00 xFIP, 0.1 WAR

Thoughts: When Jarred Cosart isn't being an idiot on Twitter, he's been learning about the dangers of being flippant about regressing from an ERA of 1.95 in ten starts in 2013. When you make fun of people on the Internet, suddenly your 2014 ERA is 4.09 . It's cosmic law.

Right now, Tanner Scheppers is doing his best broken Alexi Ogando in the rotation impression. This could be a big start for Scheppers if his goal is to remain in the rotation. With Colby Lewis guaranteed a spot in the rotation beginning next week and Matt Harrison coming back in around two weeks, Robbie Ross Jr. and Scheppers are sort of auditioning to see who can keep their spot until Derek Holland comes back in a few months. Facing the Astros is a good place to start.

  • Martin Perez: 1-0, 7.50 K/9, 2.25 BB/9, .429 BABIP, 66.7% LOB, 2.32 FIP, 2.75 xFIP, 0.4 WAR
  • Brett Oberholtzer: 0-2, 6.55 K/9, 3.27 BB/9, .233 BABIP, 60.3% LOB, 4.33 FIP, 4.44 xFIP, 0.1 WAR

Thoughts: Like Darvish, some of Perez's best outings last season came against the Astros. 'Teen's career high for strikeouts in a game is eight and he's done that twice. Unsurprisingly, both times came against Houston. Can he make it nine?

Oberholtzer had to have been among the top five or so success stories to come from the 2013 Houston Astros. A young lefty who held together in the rotation over the last few months of the season and pitched really well. In many ways, without the same pedigree, he was the Astros' Martin Perez last season. This year will be about building on that early success and proving that he has a long term future in the Astros' rotation.

Houston Astros 4-6 (5th Place in AL West)

Rangers' 2013 Record vs. Houston: 17-2 (Silver Boot remains in Arlington)

Houston's Recent Results: 1-2 road series loss to the Toronto Blue Jays

Houston's Road Record: 1-2

The Ballpark Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 107/99 - Runs: 112/109

SB Nation Astros Blog: The Crawfish Boxes

Match-up: (as of 04/11) Rangers Astros Advantage
Batting (RAR) -3.8 (21st) -7.1 (24th) The Rangers could use nine Shin-Soos
Base Running (RAR) 0.1 (12th) 1.1 (1st) There's only 16.3 Altuves between bases
Starters (RAR) 6.9 3.2 Heh. 6.9
Bullpen (RAR) -0.5 (23rd) -1.2 (25th) 2013 Cotts ain't walking through that door
Defense (UZR) Error prone so far Prince Fielder makes Chris Carter look like Keith Hernandez Kouuuuz ain't no Beltre
Overall (UZR + RAR) Doesn't matter yet Doesn't matter yet Can the Rangers replicate 17-2?

Questions to Answer:

  • Yea or Nay: Prince Fielder hits a home run in this series?
  • Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (Who'd pick against Shin-Soo Choo at this point?)
  • Over/Under: 10.5 strikeouts by Yu Darvish tonight in his first start against the Astros this season?
  • What's your guess for line (IP/H/K/BB/ER) by Tanner Scheppers on Saturday in what could end up being his last look in the rotation?
  • Do the Rangers grab a lead in the Battle for the Silver Boot after sending the Astros packing this weekend?