The Texas Rangers are coming for the Houston Astros. They trailed Houston by one game for the division lead entering Wednesday night’s action. Though the Rangers fell to the Seattle Mariners while the Astros beat up on the Oakland A’s, Texas is still very much in the hunt to capture the division title. With the exception of the much-better-documented AL East race, all of the other divisions are nearly wrapped up. So, what are some factors to consider for the last three, or so, weeks of the regular season?
Come Friday, when both teams begin a new series, Texas will have 17 remaining home games and just six left on the road. Houston will have nine to play at home and ten in enemy territory. Just as an informative aside for you inquisitive readers, I’m starting from Friday, not just because both teams start new series, but because the Rangers are currently laying absolute waste to the team formerly known as the Seattle Mariners.
The home-road splits alone should favor Texas, at least according to conventional wisdom. The Rangers, however, are winning exactly half of their home games. Maybe not a huge advantage. However, they cruise on the road to the tune of a .562 winning percentage. Houston, on the other hand, crushes opponents at home (.667 W%). On the road, they’re, well…road kill. There, they own a .403 W%. Yikes! Further reason for worry, the Astros end the regular season on the road. Granted, it’s against the Arizona Diamondbacks. They’ve faced each other for a three-game series this year. Houston won that series 2-1. I still think the percentages play in Texas’s favor here.
That’s unfortunate. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I’ve never liked the Rangers. Maybe it has something to do with Alex Rodriguez. Anyway, I’d rather see the Astros win the division. They’re a young, fun, quizzical team — second in the majors in homers and batter strikeouts. Luckily for me, FanGraphs projects the Astros with a 68.8% chance of winning the division. I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that Texas, while both home series, ends the season against the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? In 19 games this year facing the Tigers and Angels, Texas is 8-11. That’s a limp .421 W%.
Let’s look at the division layout from FanGraphs (as of 5pm Pacific, Wednesday), shall we?
So, while the Astros have that slim one game lead, they hold a much better advantage in predicted W% for the rest of the season AND chance to win the division. But…and there’s seemingly always a but…
…this doesn’t look so hot if you compare it to just two weeks ago.
Holy AstroTurf Batman! They looked like they had that s*@! on lockdown!
Next week, from Monday to Thursday, the Astros will visit the Rangers for a four-game tilt. This doesn’t bode well for Houston for a couple of reasons. First of all, the Rangers have been beating them up this season, so far winning the season series 8-4. Secondly, they have to play on the road, where they suck. In six of those 12 games, Houston played without George Springer and/or Carlos Correa. That could be a factor.
The Springer Effect:
While a team will always welcome back one of their young sluggers during the stretch run, George Springer may not be very helpful in that Texas series. On the year, Springer is slashing .095/.136/.095 against the Rangers in 22 total plate appearances. At Rangers Ballpark in 15 PAs, he’s slashing, very dully, .133/.133/.133 without a single walk or RBI. Here’s to hoping that Correa can offset those dreadful numbers.
From where we stand now, I’m begrudgingly seeing Houston’s grip on the division crown slipping. If that four-game series goes as the previous 12 games, I think Texas wrests the AL West away, dumping the Astros into the Wild Card.