W2W4: Rangers vs. Astros
Monday: LHP Derek Holland (9-9, 3.48 ERA) vs. RHP Jordan Lyles (7-8, 5.26), 7:05 p.m.
Tuesday: RHP Yu Darvish (13-9, 2.81) vs. RHP Brad Peacock (5-5, 5.24), 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: LHP Martin Perez (9-5, 3.54) vs. LHP Dallas Keuchel (6-9, 4.99), 7:05 p.m.
Here's what to watch for in this final series between these in-state rivals:
Silver Boot: The Rangers retained the Silver Boot, given to the winner of the season series, back in August with a four-game sweep of the Astros in Houston. The Rangers are 14-2 against the Astros, with eight straight wins. The 14 wins are the second most ever by Texas against one opponent in a season. The Rangers beat Seattle 15 times in 2011. Texas has won 13 consecutive individual series against the Astros. The Rangers have never needed a sweep more than they do now. They've outscored Houston 104-64.
Astros' offense: The Astros have averaged four runs per game against the Rangers. That's not so bad considering they were almost no-hit twice by Darvish, not to mention having won only two games. Houston's offense starts with Jose Altuve, who has hit safely in 19 of his past 21 games. He is batting .374 with eight doubles, a home run and 10 RBIs during that span.
Andrus rolls on: If the Rangers earn a wild-card birth, shortstop Elvis Andrus will likely be right in the middle of things. Andrus is batting .340 over his past 23 games and broke an 0-for-10 slide with two singles Sunday. Andrus has a career-high 40 stolen bases, though he was caught Sunday trying to steal third base. He has played spectacular defense, making 14 errors in 552 total chances.
Home, not sweet home: The Rangers have one last chance to play well at home. The last homestand was a disaster, as they lost all six games to Pittsburgh and Oakland, which cost them the American League West and put them in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs. The Rangers have 39 home wins. To put that in perspective, 18 teams have more home wins, including Philadelphia and Colorado, teams that have been out of the playoff race for weeks. The Rangers have the best road record in the majors at 45-36.
Bullpen power: The Rangers have three qualifying relievers with ERAs under 2.00 with seven games left in the regular season: Neal Cotts (1.04), Joe Nathan (1.51) and Tanner Scheppers (1.96). According to baseball-reference.com, there have been only two teams since 1900 do that: the 2002 Braves and the 2003 Dodgers. The Rangers and Braves can both accomplish that this season. The much-maligned Astros bullpen has been better of late with a 2.63 ERA in the past 13 games.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.