Texas won the AL West the past two years, but the Rangers are struggling as the Houston Astros keep living up to preseason baseball futures as the team to beat in the division.
Notorious for slow starts, the Houston Astros have instead been among the most reliable teams while building the best record in the American League entering the weekend. Boasting a balanced offense and steady pitching, we'll see if they can keep it going and live up to some pretty high standards set on MLB futures odds earlier this spring.
One thing that has helped the Houston lineup is a reduction in strikeout frequency, one of the team's biggest bugaboos the past few years. The Astros have turned that into a .347 on-base percentage, second in the AL, and not sacrificed any power with 38 homers, third best in the Junior Circuit. The mix of George Springer, Josh Reddick and Jose Altuve at the top of the order never quits, Houston already posting nine come-from-behind wins and ranking second in the majors in scoring from the seventh inning on.
While the offense has been scoring late, the bullpen has been keeping opponents off the pay station with a 2.97 ERA in the late innings. The relievers have needed to do that following some spotty performances by the rotation, namely Joe Musgrove and Mike Fiers, and speculation is the Astros may already be in the market to bring in another arm such as White Sox southpaw Jose Quintana.
Rangers Lagging Behind In AL West Cellar
Houston did stumble to end its recent homestand, but the good news is the Astros still took three of four from their rivals just to the north of them in the Lone Star State. Texas has made a living off the Astros the past couple of seasons, winning 28 of 38 encounters in 2015-16, but the Rangers show signs of trouble with several key injuries partly to blame.
Texas starts the weekend having dropped seven if its last 10 as April segued to May and just learned co-ace Cole Hamels will miss two months with an oblique strain. The good news is the Rangers expect to get Tyson Ross (thoracic outlet surgery) back by the end of May, when they also hope to have clubhouse leader Adrian Beltre (calf) ready to assume his position at third.
Interleague Series Dominate Slate To Begin Week 6
Texas' roadie continues next week with a stop in San Diego, just one of seven interleague series that fill the schedule after this weekend. Several of them are of the four-game, home-&-home variety, and one of the most anticipated is the Beltway Series that pits Washington against Baltimore. The first two games are at Camden Yards before the teams shift south on I-95 to the nation's capital. It all begins with a pitching matchup between Gio Gonzalez and Kevin Gausman. The Nats have won five straight with Gonzalez on the mound, and he should be the favorite on the MLB odds in this tilt despite struggling a bit against the O's in the past while Gausman has shined against Washington.
Another key series matches the Cubs and Rockies in Colorado, the teams currently atop their divisions and ready for what could be some high-powered offense at Coors Field. The Nationals were in Denver about two weeks ago and scored 46 runs in taking three of four from the Rox. Totals ranged from 10½ to 11½ for that series and should be about the same for this set with Chicago third in the NL averaging 5.07 RPG and Colorado fourth with 39 dingers. Look for at least one of the Cubs-Rockies contests to be part of the free baseball picks lineup here at SBR.