2016 X-Factors: Hate on Houston

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With a week until Opening Day, we'll take a look at the five most important factors to Rangers' success in 2016, spread out over — you guessed it — five days.

No 1:The Rangers must own the Astros like they did last year.

After the way the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers started the 2015 season, it seemed highly unlikely the Rangers had any chance to catch the Astros in the AL West. In fact, as late as late August, the thought with the Rangers was that they had a chance at one of the AL Wild Card spots. Catching the Astros wasn't a serious consideration.

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Then, something happened. The Rangers went on a tear in September, much of it as the Astros' expense. The Astros' bullpen cratered while the Rangers' excelled and the Rangers ended up dominating the season series with a 13-6 season victory, buoyed largely by a seven-game win streak against their in-state rivals, including a four-game sweep in Arlington in mid-September that allowed the Rangers to finally catch the Astros in the standings.

The Astros made an upgrade to their bullpen by acquiring young hard-throwing closer Ken Giles, but his track record as a closer isn't too terribly extensive.

In my mind, for the Astros to have a chance of unseating Texas, they're going to have to win the Silver Boot. Yes, the Silver Boot actually means something now. Crazy, I know.

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