Date: Tuesday, May 2nd
Rangers’ Record: 11-15 (T-4th place, 6.0 games behind Houston)
Tonight’s Opponent: Houston Astros
Tonight’s Starters: Cole Hamels (2-0, 3.03) vs. Mike Fiers (0-1, 5.12)
Is there any doubt that tonight’s game is must-see television? Not only did we get a benches-clearing scuffle in the first game of the season between the Rangers and the Astros, but the Rangers’ season is beginning to look perilously like it is hanging in the balance, and about five months earlier than expected. Cole Hamels takes the mound for the 11-15 Rangers, who currently trail first-place Houston by 6 games.
Lets take a minute to go over the Rangers/Astros rivalry. It's the May 2nd Baseball Texas Daily!
1. The Rangers lost last night by a score of 6-2, and the benches cleared when Lance McCullers threw behind Mike Napoli. The rivalry was already heated, of course. Gone are the days when a large number of Ranger fans considered the Astros their “NL team” (it seemed that the courtesy was extended the other way as well).
But the groundwork for the rivalry took seed even before the 2013 season, when the Astros were moved from the NL Central to the AL West…
2. THE SILVER BOOT
In 2001, four years after the introduction of Interleague Play, the “Lone Star Series” (or the “Silver Boot” series) was invented. In the 16 seasons since, the Rangers have won the Silver Boot 12 times, including three times in those interleague years when they won on a runs-scored tiebreaker. The Astros have won 4.
3. THE DRUNKEN SAILORS
In 2012, Jeff Luhnow suggested Jon Daniels and the Rangers were spending like "drunken sailors" in their international free-agent signings. Since then, when you go see the Rangers and Astros at the ballpark in Arlington, you might hear Chuck Morgan's team playing "drunken sailors", throwing subtle-but-well-aimed shade at Luhnow and the Astros.
4. THE RYAN EXPRESS
After the 2013 season, Nolan Ryan stepped down from his role with the Rangers. Before the 2014 season started, he was a member of the Astros’ front office. The squabbles between Ryan and members of the Rangers’ front-office were the talk of the town for years, and defecting a few hundred miles south certainly gave another level of intrigue to the rivalry.
5. 2015, PART ONE
Things have gotten much more interesting since the Astros have compiled enough talent to be competitive. 2015 contained a few more volume-increases in the rivalry. Former Astro and low-expectations king Wandy Rodriguez not only succeeded for a half-season in Texas, but set a franchise record for consecutive hitters retired (34). Texas' starting center fielder was a Rule 5 pick named Delino DeShields, who had been plucked from the Astros’ minor league system.
6. 2015, PART TWO
Then, of course, there was dust-up between then-21-year-old Rougned Odor and then-Astros-catcher Hank Conger.That was the fracas that gave us the now-immortalized-by-bobblehead Jeff Banister finger-point. You should watch that video, by the way. Prince Fielder was first on the scene, and Josh Hamilton hit what would eventually be the game-winning RBI double, scoring Adrian Beltre.
7. 2015 HAS WARRANTED THREE SEPARATE PARAGRAPHS
Somewhere around the middle of the season, the Astros got cold just as the Rangers got hot. There was the “Keuchel’s Korner” uprising, and the Astros’ attempted reclamation of the “come and take it” slogan. There was Cole Hamels refusing a trade to the Astros and ending up in Arlington. Ultimately, the season culminated in the Rangers coming from behind and winning the division, proudly waving a “we came and took it” flag in center field upon clinching. The Rangers were 13-6 against the Astros that season. Oh, and the Rangers’
8. 2016: ALSO NOT BAD
Then came 2016, and with it, more bad blood. We had the now-infamous “put them to the ground” statement by Ken Giles, followed by the “shut up and play” retort from Elvis Andrus. That was in June. Carlos Gomez was a .190-hitting Astro at the time. But Texas went 15-4 against Houston in 2016, helped by their new outfielder Carlos Gomez, who rediscovered his swing and hit .284 with 8 home runs in the final 33 games for Texas after having been released by Houston.
Texas again won the division.
9. 2017: HAS THE TIDE TURNED?
I won’t even begin to dignify some of the garbage lobbed by various members of the media looking to score clicks with their hot takes. But a brief look at the history between the two teams shows a pretty one-sided contest in the battle of signature wins. Until last night, the Astros' biggest claim to victory was Marwin Gonzalez breaking up Yu Darvish's perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning.
But here we are: 2017. And perhaps we should consider that the tide began to shift before the teams even met: the Rangers’ now-patented strategy of turning former Astros into superstars… didn’t work this year. Then came the 11-14 start. Then came last night. Game one. A day after Alex Bregman tweeted a misspelled and misguided tweet about his hopes for the series. The Astros came from behind and beat the Rangers in the first meeting of the season.
Have things changed? I suppose we’ll find out long before we get to the 19th game between the teams this season. But this much is certain: it’s not likely to get boring any time soon.
Bad Books is the side project founded by Kevin Devine and Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull. If you’re a fan of either or both of those acts, you already know about Bad Books. If not, consider this a triple-rec for people who love (mostly electric) guitars and amazing lyric-writing.
(Spotify, Apple Music, Website)
During the regular season, these recommendations occasionally come from Rangers players, broadcasters, or other people around the team (here’s a complete list). If there’s a player or person you’d like Levi to ask for a music recommendation, shoot him an e-mail email@example.com or a tweet here.
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