The New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays are having a race for the division in the AL East. Over in the AL West there is a similar scenario playing out. The Houston Astros trail the Texas Rangers by 3 games with an opportunity to cut into it tonight. The Astros were the darlings of Major League Baseball earlier in the season, trading in a dreadful 2014 for a surprise run in 2015. The patience and development of their minor league system paid off. It looked like then the Astros were going to have a clean ride all the way to the postseason, but the Rangers have gotten hot, and are looking to steal the AL West away from them. At the moment the Rangers are ahead and just don’t have to screw it up. The Astros are a young team and they couldn’t sustain the run they had going. That happens with young teams. If the Rangers win the division and the Astros fail to make a comeback, it’s been a good year for them regardless. Whatever the end result this season, they made tremendous strides and should hold their heads high. But there is still a lot of baseball to be played, and they have a big one tonight at home, so there is no time yet to be dwelling on things.
The Rangers have had a big bounce back year of their own. It’s been some years since they were playing good ball, in the Beltre and Nelson Cruz era to be exact. Now they have some different faces there, notably Prince Fielder who they acquired from the Tigers last year. The price tag associated with Fielder was steep and initially it was appearing like a dumb move on the Rangers part, as Fielder missed a large part of 2014. Making up for lost time, Fielder has been driving the Rangers right into the postseason. Beltre is still in Texas and Fielder has replaced Cruz as the primary bat in the offense. It’s been working out for Texas, as the offense has been the reason for their success. I provide the rest of thoughts and give my pick below.
Texas Rangers vs. Houston Astros
Yovani Gallardo (12-11, 3.41 ERA) vs. Scott Kazmir (7-10, 2.73)
With all of the injuries the Rangers have gone through in their rotation, it is a good thing that Yovani Gallardo wasn’t a complete gas can this season. They really needed him. I suspect if he didn’t bring them the wins he has, the Rangers wouldn’t be situated where they are right now. While he hasn’t sustained the level of play he was earlier in the season, he did bring the Rangers to this point. In his last three starts he’s posted a 4.91 ERA and 1.77 WHIP, so there is cause for concern there. In the last two or three months he has regressed. With the kind of offense the Rangers have, if they had a stronger rotation, they’d be right up there with the Blue Jays as favorites to win the World Series.
As it is, they’ve really had to rely on their offense to win ball games. They’ve scored an average of 7.2 runs per game in their last ten games. A staggering mark, which says they don’t need much pitching. But come the postseason, games are won with pitching. It’s going to be Cole Hamel’s time to show that he is still one of the better pitchers in baseball. They’ll definitely need him to come up big. Scott Kazmir has seen some problems lately as well, yielding a 4.86 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in his last three starts. I want to back the ‘Stros here, I really do, but the Rangers’ offense has been so hot that it is hard to bet against. Thus, I am going just going to make a play on the total, banking on plenty of runners to cross the plate tonight in Houston.
PICK: OVER 8 RUNS (-105)