Nick Tropeano (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
With the Sliver Boot already secured, the Houston Astros (69-87) will take on the Texas Rangers (62-93) for the last time this season in a three-game series at Arlington Ball Park. The Astros will send Nick Tropeano (1-1, 2.70 ERA) to the mound tonight to take on Derek Holland (1-0, 0.99 ERA) of the Rangers.
Tropeano is making just his third major league start after two very solid outings for Houston. In Seattle on September 10th, the 24-year-old right-hander pitched 5.0 innings and gave up four hits, two earned runs, two walks, and five strikeouts on 80 pitches in his ML debut. Against the Indians on September 16th, Tropeano went 5.0 innings and surrendered four hits, one earned run, two walks, and four strikeouts on 101 pitches.
(Photo by Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
Houston, who needs to go 4-2 in their final six games to avoid 90 loses, had an offensive outburst against the Mariners after struggling in their previous two series. The Astros had one home run (by Gregorio Petit) in 13 games before hitting five against Seattle on Saturday. One each from Jake Marisnick (three-run homer; No. 2 on the season), Chris Carter (two-run; No. 37), Alex Presley (two-run; No. 6), Carlos Corporan (solo; No. 6), and Matt Dominguez (solo; No. 16).
Earlier today, I wrote about Marisnick’s impressive weekend and his chances of being a starter next season. He’s batting fifth tonight behind first baseman Chris Carter and center fielder Dexter Fowler. Meanwhile, Max Stassi will be behind the plate once again for the Astros as he continues to be Tropeano’s catcher every time he takes the mound and Presley will be the designated hitter.
Jose Altuve (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
Jose Altuve is looking to become the first Astros player to ever win the batting title and currently leads MLB with 220 hits. He is ahead of Tigers slugger Victor Martinez by 11 points in the batting race (.345 to .334), but should be able to hold on barring a complete collapse. Altuve also has the most hits by a second baseman since Charlie Gehringer‘s 227 in 1936 and became the first MLB player with 220 or more hits in a season since Ichiro Suzuki in 2009. He is 22 for 47 (.468) in his last 11 games and batting .381 against the Rangers this season.
Rangers starter Derek Holland went 1-0 with a 2.14 ERA in three starts against the Astros last year and pitched a six-hitter with nine strikeouts in a 12-0 victory on September 23rd. However, this is just his fifth start this season after knee surgery and Altuve, who is hitting .422 against left-handers in 2014, went 2 for 8 versus Holland in 2013. With how the All-Star second baseman has been seeing the ball recently, Altuve could see more teams pitching around him as the season comes to a close.
The Astros are 11-5 in the season series against Texas this year and have won 10 of the last 12 meetings, including a three-game sweep in Texas in early July. After three consecutive last place finishes, Houston can clinch a better record than the Rangers (and fourth place in the AL West) with one more victory over them. It’s not a huge accomplishment or anything for the Astros to brag about, but it’s definitely progress for a team trying to rebuild their image.
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It would definitely mean a lot to the organization if they are able to avoid 90 loses this season. It will be difficult to go 4-2 with the team shutting down Dallas Keuchel and possibly Collin McHugh for the rest of the season. However, with Altuve chasing the batting title and Carter chasing the home run title, the Astros are hoping their offense can carry their young pitchers these last few games. In the end, if this team really wants to avoid 90 loses, it would be huge to get a victory tonight.