ASTROS (57-33) AT RANGERS (47-42)
8:05 p.m. ET; ESPN, MLB.TV
Through a first half that featured a pair of double-digit win streaks plus a seven-game skid that shaved what was a 10-game division lead in half, the short-handed Astros kept chugging along.
And now, with 72 games remaining on their schedule plus a 7 1/2-game lead in the American League West, the Astros stand poised to claim their third consecutive division pennant.
Houston, which opens a four-game series against the Texas Rangers in Arlington on Thursday, has lost a combined 106 games from Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer to injuries. Correa and super utility man Aledmys Diaz remain on the 10-day injured list, but both are set to return sometime this month with the design of finally making the Astros whole again.
In the interim and starting against the Rangers, the Astros will keep pushing forward with another postseason berth and World Series championship in their sights and as their goals.
“Our perseverance through a lot of injuries that were unexpected is something that I’ve been very proud of,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “Our win total is good. In my seat, you always wish for more wins … but I’m proud of our guys for staying focused and keeping the perspective on how long the season is and what everybody has to do to step up when some guys got hurt.
“This is a really good team. We played really well in the first half and look forward to whatever is next.”
The Astros have not announced a starter for Thursday. Houston did option right-hander Jose Urquidy to Triple-A Round Rock on Wednesday after he posted a 10.50 ERA over two starts against the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Angels. The Astros are scheduled to start right-hander Gerrit Cole, left-hander Wade Miley and right-hander Justin Verlander over the remainder of the four-game series.
Right-hander Lance Lynn (11-4, 3.91 ERA) will start Thursday for Texas. He is second on the Rangers to All-Star left-hander Mike Minor in bWAR (3.9) and is 5-0 with a 2.85 ERA over his last seven starts with 53 strikeouts against just four walks over 47 1/3 innings.
Lynn is 4-2 with a 2.20 ERA over eight career appearances (seven starts) against the Astros and suffered a 3-0 loss at Minute Maid Park on May 10 after allowing three runs on six hits and one walk with eight strikeouts over seven innings.
The upstart Rangers slumped a bit down the stretch of the first half, losing six of seven games before pulling out a 4-1 win in 11 innings at Minnesota on July 7.
Expectations for the Rangers were muted entering the season, but instead of rebuilding, the Rangers have enjoyed a resurgence and will enter Thursday just three games behind Cleveland for the second wild card in the AL.
Texas’ role as a contender could facilitate adding personnel at the trading deadline, a move that would not only bolster their postseason hopes but validate the style of play that put the Rangers in contention in the first place. Thus far, their unified, singular approach has paid dividends.
“We’re working together as a team,” Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor said. “We’ve been having the same approach.”
–Field Level Media