On Monday, the Astros and Rangers begin their third and final series before the All-Star break. The Rangers look to continue their winning ways over the Astros, whom they are a perfect 6-0 against this season. The Astros however, look to continue their current hot-streak, which started after the Rangers swept them in Houston.
The Rangers seemingly have the upper-hand in the series, considering their recent history; there is little reason to think they will cool off. They have the best record in the American League (AL) and have been even better this year when playing Houston. Against the Astros they have a run-differential of 29-14, a home and road sweep, and now they have Yu Darvish back. The Rangers are probably ecstatic to see Houston on the schedule again.
However; this is not the same Astros team the Rangers have owned in the first portion of the season. In fact, since that series, the Astros are a surprising 11-2 with impressive sweeps of Baltimore and Oakland. Houston has truly come alive in the past two weeks and will look to re-enter the AL West race with a strong showing in Arlington.
The key will be pitching. Can you expect Colby Lewis to continue his excellent start to the season or Dallas Keuchel to keep struggling? You would assume they will both revert back to being the players we are used to seeing, but it may just be that kind of year.
The Rangers also have the awkward situation of deciding who to play at DH. Prince Fielder has been struggling mightily this season which resulted in his recent benching. Meanwhile, Jurickson Profar has a 9-game hit streak and multiple hits in each of his last 5 games.
Regardless of outcome, this series will be an important one. Either the Rangers will assert themselves as the team-to-beat, in not only the AL West, but the AL. Or Houston will reclaim its spot in the hunt for the AL wild-card.