Pitching isn’t the only problem for the Rangers as we go into the All-Star break. Don’t look now, but here come the Astros.
After a slow start to the season, the Astros are now 5 1/2 games behind the Rangers for the top spot in the A.L. West. Both teams were expected to battle for the division crown all season long, but it sure didn’t look that way back in April.
The Astros started out 7-17 and in last place with a bullpen that was a disaster (Ranger fans can relate). Luke Gregerson eventually replaced Ken Giles as the closer and the Astros offense started launching the ball out of the ballpark. The climb out of the cellar and back into the playoff picture began.
The Astros owned baseball’s best record (29-11) from May 23 to July 7, and go into the break with a 16-5 record in their last 21 games to raise their record to 48-41. During that same span, the Rangers are 10-11, allowing the gap to close between the two in the division. The Astros are also two games back of the Blue Jays for the final Wild Card spot.
They are also finding ways to win games late. Two of their wins against the A’s over the weekend were in walk-off fashion. Jason Marisnick scored the winning run on an errant throw in the 10th inning in Sunday’s 2-1 win, and Luis Valbuena hit the game-winning 3-run homer in the ninth on Friday.
The good news for the Rangers is that they still own the best record in the A.L. (54-36) and are 9-1 this season against the Astros. Both teams will face off nine more times in the second half of the season, six of those in Houston.
Remember, the Rangers got off to a slow start last season and caught the Astros to win the division. It’s not out of the realm of possibility the same thing could happen again, just with the teams switched around.
Business just picked up once the second half of the season begins.