It’s hard to believe that four games during the first week of May can be considered important.
But a road trip down south to Houston could be a make-or break situation for the Rangers as they start up a four-game series against in-state rival Astros Monday night.
Texas goes into this year’s version of the Lone Star Series tied for third in the A.L. West with the Oakland A’s after the first month of the season, five games back of the division-leading Astros. Houston has been tough at home with a 9-5 record at the friendly confines of Minute Maid Park, while the Rangers have struggled on the road at 3-6.
However, the Rangers do have history on their side as they’ve dominated the Lone Star Series with an 95-53 overall record against the Astros and won the Silver Boot Trophy last season by going 15-4 in 19 games. In fact, the Rangers have won the Silver Boot Series 12 times since 2001. Whether that kind of dominance carries over to this season remains to be seen.
The rivalry has seen its fair share of entertaining moments as of late. Two years ago, the Rangers stormed back in the second half of the season and caught a struggling Astros team to win the division. Earlier that season, both teams were involved a bench-clearing “misunderstanding” after Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor and Astros catcher Hank Conger exchanged words as Odor prepared to step into the batter’s box. Things got turned up a notch during the incident when Astros manager A.J. Hinch shoved Prince Fielder, which led to Rangers manager Jeff Banister yelling in Hinch's face "don't touch my guy." After that, the Lone Star Series started to have a little rivalry feel to it.
Fast forward to the here and now where the Astros look like the team to beat early on after jumping out to a 16-9 start. All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve continues to do his thing, hitting .326 with 29 hits in 24 games, including three home runs. The lineup has been bolstered with the additions of Josh Reddick, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. The ageless Beltran was on the Rangers side of the rivalry last year before signing a free agent deal with the Astros during the offseason.
The trip to Houston could be a much-needed change of scenery for the Rangers after losing four of the last six games on their home turf to the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels. The Rangers were 7-2 last year at Minute Maid Park.
Andrew Cashner will get his first taste of the Lone Star State rivalry when he takes the mound for the Rangers for the first game, followed by Cole Hamels on Tuesday. The Astros will counter with Lance McCullers Jr. and Mike Fiers.
The Rangers do need a strong showing this week to avoid falling too far behind in the standings despite the fact they have a history of catching the Astros late in the season. Hard to believe that lightning can strike twice, so the Rangers would like to avoid being in that situation again if possible.