The Silver Boot Series has always come equipped with a punch line, but this year it might be adorned with an American League West pennant.
For decades the Rangers and Astros played in separate leagues, never noticing each other’s plight other than the occasional hiring away from another a pitcher and front-office guru named Nolan Ryan.
Then came baseball’s interleague play and, in 2013, the Astros’ move to the American League.
The Silver Boot always felt like a fabricated tool to push a rivalry that just wasn’t.
From 2007-13 the Rangers dominated the Lone Star Series while making consecutive World Series. In ’13, in fact, Texas went an astounding 17-2 against Houston, which at the time was the worst team in baseball.
Don’t look now, but the Rangers-Astros’ series will reward the winner with much more than 10-gallon braggin’ rights.
Around Memorial Day the Rangers were languishing at 17-23, a good 9.5 games behind Houston in the standings. But with Labor Day in the rear-view mirror, things have changed. Led by Yovani Gallardo’s pitching and Adrian’s Beltre hitting, the Rangers beat the Mariners on holiday Monday while the Astros lost to the A’s.
With less than a month remaining in the regular season, the Rangers trail by only two games. They have 26 games remaining – seven of those against the Astros (beginning with a huge four-game series next week in Arlington).
The Cowboys regularly beat up the Oilers and – save for their inaugural game upset win – the Texans have always been the step-brothers. In basketball the Mavs’ biggest rival has always been the Spurs, but their relations with the Rockets has grown contentious in the last year or so.
Can the Rangers catch Houston? Sure. Since trailing by almost 10 games in late May they have gone 55-41. The Astros are only 27-39 on the road and they’re on a 10-game trip that concludes in Arlington. And the Rangers – now that they’ve learned how to beat Seattle – have a favorable remaining schedule with 12 games left against the Mariners and A’s.
The Astros aren’t accustomed to pressure baseball after Labor Day. They’ve been in first place since late April but at this point they have to fear being overtaken by a more experienced team.
It’s going to be refreshing to see Houston and Texas play September games that are meaningful – to both teams. And all of baseball.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.