Last year, the Achilles heel of the Astros was their poor performance against the Texas Rangers.
The Rangers seemed to have the Astros number all year long. A few more wins against them might have put the team into the playoffs.
"“They’ve just beat the hell out of us… They’ve come into our ballpark, at their ballpark, and they’ve just beat us.”Manager A.J. Hinch on the Astros’ struggles against the Rangers"
Each game seemed to have its own unique, tragic way of spiraling out of control. Whether it be a shaky starting pitcher, sputtering offense, or a bullpen collapse, the Astros never seemed to catch a break. This poses a major question for Houston fans: How do we beat the Rangers?
First the Astros offense needs to show up
In their bouts against the Rangers last year, Houston scored about 3.7 runs per game, almost a whole run below their average. Had they scored their average for the season of 4.5 runs per game in the 15 losses against the Rangers, they would have picked up another seven wins. Clearly, the offense could have been better.
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Enter Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Josh Reddick. The front office brought in these bats to avoid the long stretches in the lineup without power. With the addition of these three, the offense could strike at any moment.
Also, the bullpen needs to close out the game
Houston lost twelve games against Texas by two runs or less last year. Of those twelve losses, seven came when the bullpen allowed runs late in the game and lost the lead. The bullpen’s overall ERA was 3.56 last year, one of the best in the majors. Against the Rangers, they constantly choked, leaving fans in disbelief. No big-time relief pitching joined the team in the off season, but this may not be an issue this year. As I have mentioned in other articles, the pitching was under a lot of pressure last year. Expectations were high, and especially against the Rangers, not a lot of offense was being produced. With a revamped lineup, the bullpen should be able to pitch more comfortably.
The team is well aware of the struggles of last season against the Rangers. The Astros will be attacking the Rangers with extra motivation this year as they battle once again for the division title.
**Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and MLB.com**