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Astros: Previewing final season series against Rangers

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
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Here’s what you need to know about the Houston Astros final regular season series.

Wanted: one functioning offense. That’s basically where the Houston Astros are at this point as they’re clinging on to a playoff spot which they don’t particularly seem to want. This lineup, with all its star power, looks lost and confused, so will a trip to Arlington do the trick?

I doubt I’m alone in feeling relieved that the end of this ridiculous season is finally upon us. The Astros have rarely looked like a complete team, basically limping along as a shell of themselves. Some of that is due to injuries, but this lineup has everyone except for Yordan Alvarez and it still can’t hit mediocre pitching.

If the Astros want to have a chance in the playoffs, they’ll need to build some momentum against the Rangers, who are mired in last place and have lost seven of their last 10 games. They have the worst run differential in the American League and are 2-4 against the Astros this season. If there’s ever a time for Houston to break out of its funk, this is it.

Tonight’s opener will start at 7:05 p.m. CT, as will Friday’s matchup. Saturday’s game will start at 6:05 p.m. and Sunday’s finale will begin at 2:05. All four games will be broadcast on ATT SportsNet SW and Fox Sports Southwest.

Pitching Matchups

Cristian Javier will take the mound in tonight’s opener against Rangers ace Lance Lynn. Javier is 4-2 with a 3.33 ERA on the year after giving up two runs in four innings in his last start. Lynn is 6-2 with a 2.53 ERA this season and gave up three runs in seven innings last time out. His worst start of the year came against the Astros on Sept. 3.

Friday’s game will feature Jose Urquidy taking on Kyle Cody. Urquidy is 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA in four starts this year and allowed two runs in six innings last time out. He pitched seven innings of one-run ball against the Rangers on Sept. 15. Cody is 1-1 with a 1.53 ERA in four starts and three relief appearances. He gave up one run in three innings against the Astros on Sept. 15.

The Rangers will send Kyle Gibson to the mound on Saturday, who has a 5.87 ERA this year but tossed a complete-game shutout against Houston on Sept. 16. The Astros have not officially named a starter yet. If they have yet to clinch a playoff spot, they’ll likely go with Lance McCullers. If they have clinched, they’ll likely pitch someone else.

The same is true for Sunday, as Framber Valdez would likely pitch if needed, but otherwise the Astros would start someone they won’t need in the Wild Card round. The Rangers will send Jordan Lyles to the hill, who has an unsightly 7.08 ERA this year but of course also pitched well against these hitters in the teams’ last series.

Players to Watch

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For the Rangers, keep an eye on Derek Dietrich, who has the best OPS in this current lineup and has homered in three of his past four games. He may not be in the lineup in all four games, but this is a Rangers offense that doesn’t do a whole lot. Anyone with a pulse should be paid close attention to.

Meanwhile the Astros are just trying to find a pulse, so I’m not really going to highlight anyone for them. They just need someone — anyone — to step up and carry this offense. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, Josh Reddick — they’ve all been using holographic bats lately. Time to break out.

Astros Expectations

You didn’t think I actually had any expectations for this series, did you? At this point I don’t even know if I want them to just lose and get it over with or to find a way to claw their way into the playoffs. Is there even a chance of this lineup finally coming back to life? Now is the time to find out.

If the Astros do intend to play in the postseason, taking a split of these four games will accomplish that for them. They could still make the playoffs if they lose the series, but they would need some help from the Dodgers and A’s. This team should be able to split a series in the Rangers’ new barbecue grill (sorry, stadium), but I’d rather not expect much from them.

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