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Friday, September 25, 2015

Here are we...and yander yawns October.



Lets make it red 'caps' for our purposes here. Haha...



Before we begin, Rangers fans. Allow me to unlock the 162+ Vault...

 



August 1, 2014


"...these 2014 Rangers get a chance to not rebuild, but reload. Remember the 2012 Red Sox? They lost 93 games due to injuries and other issues and a year later they were World Series Champions."

 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


"This team is still flawed. Its only real right handed power bat is an aging Adrian Beltre. We have no true Ace...again (Cole Hamels??). The bullpen is next to last in ERA and has the 3rd most blown saves in the AL.."





Just going to leave those right there. Haha...



So, the date is July 19th and I have tickets to a Rangers/Astros game. I don't end up going and luckily so because Cy Young favorite (I suppose) Dallas Keuchel goes 7 strong and strikes out a career high 13 in a 10-0 shutout/beating of the Rangers as the Astros take 2 of 3 in the series. This was a home start and win for Keuchel (remember this combination). The Rangers fall to a dismal 43-48 on this particular afternoon, but it felt like something of a fire was lit under this forced 'rivalry' and this team that weekend, ostensibly due to the 'always' truculent Rougned Odor....








The Astros would reach their high water mark of 14 games over .500 for the 2nd time this season (and 8 games ahead of the Rangers) on August 2nd, a mere 3 days after the Rangers traded for Cole Hamels, and 4 days after this debacle...



We were winning 5-0!!






Lets re-open the 162+ Vault again to May this time (when the Astros were 11 over), Rangers fans...



"...you have to point to a May 4th series against the Astros at Minute Maid. The Astros were riding high and the Rangers were 10 games out when this series began. They would go on to sweep Houston and never looked back for the rest of May..."



Fast forward back to August. So here were the Astros (60-46, the aforementioned high water mark) riding high again ready to deliver the knockout blow to our Rangers, but once again another sweep of those Astros seemed to spark the Rangers season. A series where the Rangers finally got to and above .500, by the way...





It's time to admit the Astros got off to a hot start and just kept their head above water while the majority of the West, full of expectations, performed terribly. The only teams no one expected much from? The Rangers and Astros (especially the Astros haha). Don't believe me? Let's examine...



Here's what the 'experts' predicted...




http://espn.go.com/mlb/preview15/story/_/id/12588378/expert-team-predictions-2015-mlb-season




So, in case you didn't want to count that's 13 'experts' whom had the Mariners winning the West, leaving only 2 choosing the Halos as the West Champs. Let's not stop there, ten of these clowns had the Mariners making it to the World Series with one such prognosticator actually having them winning it all...






Don't believe me when I say those Astros series sweeps sparked our season? Since the May 4th-6th sweep of the Astros? The Rangers have gone 75-53. Astros? 62-66. Since the August 3rd-5th sweep of the Astros? The Rangers have gone 32-16. Astros? 20-27...




Shall we examine further? I read a stat recently (which I've now amended) via Jamey Newberg via Richard Justice which is very telling. The Astros are 21-10 in games started by Cy Young favorite (I guess) Dallas Keuchel. All other games? 59-63. Keuchel is also a dominant 14-0 at the juice box with a 1.47 ERA. Away from home though? 4-8 with a 3.82 ERA...




This actually serves as a bit of a microcosm for the Astros team itself. They have the best home record in the American League at 51-27, but are downright abysmal on the road with a record of 29-46. Only the Marlins have fewer road wins. The Astros have played less than .500 ball (66-70) against the American League. Against their former National League counterparts though? 14-3, the best mark of an AL team...





In summation, what I'm getting at is...when I look at the Astros I see a team who strikes out a ton, knocks the absolute cover off the ball when they do connect (209 HRs, 49 more than the Rangers), and are practically unbeatable at home even more so when their dynamic Ace is pitching. Otherwise they're tantamount to a .500 or so team...





That's not to say your Texas Rangers aren't statistical anomalies themselves. Looking at the numbers irrespective of the win-loss mark you would expect to find a .500 or worse team. Here's an 83 win team with a slim/harmless/uninspiring +9 run differential in September...easily the lowest of any contender in the AL. Just for some perspective, the 75-76 Indians whom are 4 games out of the second Wild Card have a +14 run differential. The Astros are +93 if you were wondering...





Here's a team (the Rangers) near the bottom of the league in ERA and BAA (although according to ESPN.com the Rangers have the 3rd best ERA in the AL since August 3rd). A team continuing a disturbing trend from 2014 of just plain fielding terribly with 110 errors this season (though somehow they've turned the most double plays in the AL). Only the A's (the AL's worst team) have more errors...




What's the adage? Pitching and defense wins championships? If you wanted to play devil's advocate, here's where you could point out the Astros are first in the AL in team ERA and 2nd in fielding...




You could say the lefty heavy Rangers are a slightly above average (yet surging) team on offense. You could say they do all the little things. They're near the top of the league in stolen bases and sacrifices, after all. You could say they're road warriors (44-34) which is what you have to be in October to win in this league...




Even so, they always say your goal in a 162 game season is to play .500 on the road and play your best ball at home. Take division leaders Kansas City and Toronto as exhibits A and B. The Royals are 50-28 at home and 39-35 on the road. The Jays are 50-28 at home. On the road? A dead even 37-37...




Well, the Rangers had been playing terribly at the Ballpark all season. It wasn't until the aforementioned 21-5 beating from the Yankees when we began to turn our fortunes around at home. In fact on this night (July 28th, well into the season) they had the fewest home wins in all the majors (16). Since said loss? The steady Zen like-Rangers have gone 23-6 at home...





You also have to tip your (red) cap to JD for sticking with Yovani Gallardo when he looked like an easy trade asset and for pulling the trigger on the Hamels trade (despite the haul we gave up)...


There went our catcher of the future...


You can't ignore Colby Lewis and his career high 17 wins (first 17 game winner for the Rangers since Scooter Feldman).


Warrior.


You can't ignore what Derek Holland and Martin Perez returning to this rotation has meant if for no better reason than we don't have Wandy Rodriguez, Phil Klein, or Ross Detwiler starting anymore...


...but not without some of Holland's requisite tomfoolery.

You can't ignore the arrivals of Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman (via the Hamels trade) and Shawn Tolleson's 33 saves in the bullpen (Ranger bullpen boasts only 3 blown saves since Aug. 3rd). You can't ignore DeShields and Roogie. You can't ignore the consistent and absolute clutch hitting of Mitch Moreland...





You can't ignore the season Prince Fielder .303/.376/.463 has had...





Or Shin Soo Choo's return to form (.270/.372/.452) after hitting .096 at the end of April. Both of whom were supposed to be major factors a year ago, or so we thought...



http://162plus.blogspot.com/2014/01/a-new-year-prince-and-lots-more-to-choo.html



So...here we have a pair of incongruous playoff contenders in the Rangers and Astros. I mean even now they aren't 'sexy' picks for the postseason. Give us a little spin there, Astros and Rangers, and let's see what you're working with...





Haha. You would think the head-to-head matchups would be more competitive. Yet, all of this and none of this tells the story (so far) of the 2015 Rangers and how they turned it around. I mean, here's a team that won 7 games in April. 7!




Most of the numbers seem to point to early August for this dramatic turnaround, yet once again you have to point to a September 14th home series of 4 against those Astros. The Rangers had finally crawled within 1 game of first place for the first time since our abysmal month of April. So here were the Astros riding high again ready to deliver the knockout blow to our Rangers, but once again another sweep of those Astros seemed to spark the Rangers season. After Prince Fielder crushed a 2 run Homer to break the suspense (and tie) of game 1...


You can almost smell the defeat...


...and Mitch Moreland walked off with a sacrifice fly in game 2...




Rangers fans were able to, at long last, wake up that Wednesday morning to this glorious sight...








Not even Dallas Keuchel survived the Rangers onslaught with a line of 4.2 IP with 11 hits and 9 earned on September 16th. Once again as we've illustrated though...he and the Astros were away from Houston. The Rangers would outscore the Astros 33-13 in the series to take a 2.5 game lead in the West. While we didn't kill the Astros playoff hopes in that series we definitely hurt them...


...really, really bad.

Nevertheless, the Astros headed to Minute Maid and began their final 9 game homestand at 3-3 while the Rangers dropped 2 of 3 at Temple to the M's then swept the A's in 3 at O.co (where the road warrior Rangers averaged nearly 9 runs a game). So, a mere week later the Rangers managed to gain another game on the Astros to bring us where we stand today...




...and if not for a miracle George Springer catch back in May, maybe it's a 4.5 game lead...





As we always say though, it tends to even out over 162. So is the 'rivalry' finally a RIVALRY? Quick history lesson before you answer...


http://162plus.blogspot.com/2013/03/your-opening-series-opponent-yes.html


It's definitely the first time in 14 years that games between these teams have actually meant something beyond bragging rights...


It will never be Dodgers/Giants or Yankees/Red Sox, but anytime you get a team from Dallas and a team from Houston together and put something on the line it's going to be interesting. So, it's time for the biggest series between these two since the last biggest series between them...




The Astros are great at home and reeling. The Rangers are great on the road and rolling. Game 1 is tonight. Scott Kazmir typically owns the Rangers. Yovani Gallardo typically owns the Astros (maybe not so much this season). Something's gotta give. Holland vs. McHugh (17-7 3.93) on Saturday afternoon. Keuchel is a virtual lock pitching at home (as you now know), but hopefully by this Sunday afternoon it will be all for not...







10 games to go...







The 'red' caps are coming!!








Bring on the Astros!!!!








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