Lone Star State rivals collide Friday in Arlington where the Rangers host the Astros, and SBR is following the whole weekend set with previews and free baseball picks.
If preseason predictions and forecasts for the AL West follow through this year, the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers are going to battle it out in this division...a fight to avoid the division cellar, that is.
Though not on the scale of classic geographical rivalries such as the A's & Giants or Cubs and White Sox, the 'Battle for the Silver Boot' is slowly developing into a decent competition between the Lone Star State foes. With both teams expected to bring up the rear of the AL West, the rivalry could turn out to be the highlight of their seasons.
The Astros and Rangers will get their 2015 competition underway Friday afternoon (4:05 PM ET) in the home opener for Texas. Collin McHugh gets the call from Houston manager AJ Hinch while Texas' Jeff Bannister gives the ball to Derek Holland, both field bosses in their first seasons running the Astros and Rangers dugouts.
Texas went out as small home chalk before the MLB Odds swung the other way overnight. Most shops now have McHugh and the Astros slight favorites while an initial 8½ run total has shrunk to 8 even.
Can Astros Build Off '14 Success Vs. Rangers?
It's the first of six series meetings on the season, four of those coming after the All-Star Game. The Rangers will be in Houston in about four weeks for their first visit, and then the teams won't meet again until mid-July.
Texas stands 67-43 over the Astros since interleague play and the clubs first met in 2001 when the Astros resided in the Senior Circuit. The Rangers have won 34 of the 54 played in Arlington, and won five straight season series from 2009-13, absolutely dominating the Astros in their first AL campaign a couple of years back by taking 17 of 19 from the Houston club.
The Astros put a stop to that last season by winning 11 of 19, the Rangers needing a sweep at home in late-September to keep Houston from running away with the 2014 matchups.
Holland Hopeful Of Full, Healthy Campaign
Claimed off waivers from Colorado before the 2014 campaign, McHugh surprised a lot of people with an 11-9, 2.73 effort for the Astros last season after he was called up near the end of April. The former 18th-round pick by the Mets in 2008, the righthander saw beat the Rangers in his only assignment vs. them and will be pitching in Arlington for the first time in his career.
An offseason knee injury shelved Holland for most of 2014, and a tender shoulder limited him to just two official appearances this spring. People backing Texas with MLB picks have fared very well in Holland's seven career starts vs. Houston, winning six of those matchups while the 28-year-old southpaw fashioned a 3.48 ERA over the course of the 46 innings.
It's supposed to be a lovely day at the park, that is if the weatherman is correct. The forecast calls for temps in the low-70s throughout the game, a few clouds in the skies and light northeast breeze (in from left field corner). Keep in mind any wind inside the stadium tends to swirl and the direction of the flags high above the stadium don't always translate to the way its blowing on the field.
Houston's offense was dormant in the recent 3-game set vs. Cleveland, the Astros scoring just three runs while whiffing 36 times in 26 innings. Texas was also shutout twice in Oakland before erupting for 10 runs Thursday afternoon to leave with a 4-game series split against the Athletics. The 'under' swept the final series in Arlington a year ago, and that's the way I'm going with my free pick for Game 1 of this set.
MLB Pick: Astros-Rangers Under 8 at BookMaker