Houston Astros: The Road to the AL West Goes Through Texas

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Sep 16, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel (60) is pulled from the game during the fifth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Rangers defeat the Astros 14-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 16, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel (60) is pulled from the game during the fifth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Rangers defeat the Astros 14-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Houston Astros Must Win the Silver Boot in 2016

Last season, the Houston Astros were in control of their own destiny for most of the season but lost control of first place in the AL West to the Texas Rangers. The Astros got off to a hot start with a 31-19 record through the first 50 games and were up five games for the AL West title. Meanwhile, the Rangers through 50 games were beginning to play better after a terrible start, were 25-25. The rest is history as the Astros slowly lost the lead, but still ended up in the playoffs through the Wild Card and beat the New York Yankees in the Wild Card game.

The Rangers finished with 88 wins, and the Astros finished with 86, if people think the Astros are a superior team, why did the Rangers overtake them? There are several reasons, but most people felt like the Astros had overachieved anyway to that point. People told A.J. Hinch at the All-Star break that the Astros had a good season, indicating that not much was expected for their continued success. I have a different idea about why the Astros struggled through the second half of the season before fighting back into the playoff picture.

The Rangers were the Astros Kryptonite

First off, I am a die-hard Astros fan, so the next few paragraphs might be hard to write. The Rangers dominated the Astros in every asset of the game in 2016, which was a great part of why the Astros lost confidence. The Rangers had 13 of the 88 wins versus the Astros; that is a 13-6 record versus Crush City. That’s about 15% of the Rangers wins in 2016, there was no chance that the Astros would win the Silver Boot. The Rangers single-handily knocked the Astros out of first place with how they played them.

Not only did the Rangers win 13 games, but they had some punch in the gut games. Here are a few of them below.

May 5, 7-1

May 6, 11-3

August 3, 12-9

September 16, 14-3

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The Rangers outscored the Astros 108 to 80, ruffling up some of the best Astros pitchers in the process including Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers, which apparently got into the Astros head. The Astros gained some more momentum at the end of the season versus the Rangers, but losing 13 games to one team, especially one that finished ahead of you is hard to swallow.

The Astros Need to Play Better Versus the Rangers

Had the Astros finished with a record versus the Rangers closer to .500, the whole playoff picture would have been different. The Astros would have possibly finished with 89 wins, and the Rangers would have had 85. Could the Astros have beaten the Blue Jays in the first round of the ALDS, we may never know. In 2016, the Astros must play better against Texas to win more games in 2016.

When MLB moved the Astros to the American League, one of the ideas was to brew a rivalry between the Astros and Rangers, but for the first few years, they were another team. The Astros were not very good, so there were not the expectations that there are now. There is passion between the two teams, which has led to some people believing that the tensions between the two teams have finally generated a rivalry.

Next: Astros Dub Doug Fister to Start First Game This Spring

The Rangers pitching staff on paper should be good, but the Astros could have a deeper rotation. The road to the playoffs will go through the Texas Rangers; we cannot let them slap us across the face again. With the only other threat to the Astros being the Seattle Mariners, the Astros must win the AL West by beating up on its prime competitors.

**Records from Baseball-Reference**

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