Former Astros pitcher Phil Maton might’ve just derailed Rangers’ start to 2024

The battle for supremacy in the AL West just got more interesting.

Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Phil Maton (88) throws a pitch
Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Phil Maton (88) throws a pitch / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Even though Phil Maton is no longer on the Houston Astros roster, he could have a major impact on AL West standings. No, Maton wasn't making a visit to Space City on Monday night, but the former Astros reliever did make an appearance against the Texas Rangers.

Maton, who signed a free agent deal this offseason with the Tampa Bay Rays, came on in relief of Chris Devenski in the ninth inning with his team trailing 7-3. Following an intentional walk to Corey Seager, Maton hit three consecutive Rangers batters.

One of those players was Josh Jung. After being struck on the right wrist, Jung exited the game with the Rangers training staff and was replaced by Josh Smith. Texas manager Bruce Bochy said after the game that Jung suffered a broken wrist as a result of the hit-by-pitch.

Former Astros pitcher Phil Maton might’ve just derailed Rangers’ start to 2024

It's never appropriate to laugh at the misfortune of other teams when it involves injuries, but there's no denying that the loss of Jung could greatly impact the Rangers' hopes of getting back to the postseason in 2024. It's not funny. It's just true.

Jung was a key piece of the Rangers' playoff run in 2023 and was already off to a hot start in 2024. Jung, an All-Star last season, was hitting .412/.474/.941 with two home runs and six RBI in the Rangers' first four games this season.

The Rangers are now without Jung, Nathaniel Lowe, Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Tyler Mahle. Lowe suffered a leg injury this spring and is expected to miss the first month of the 2024 season. Scherzer, deGrom and Mahle are all expected back at some point this season, but mid-to-late summer is probably the best case scenario for all three.

Josh Jung's injury opens the door for the Houston Astros in the AL West

After being embarrassed by the New York Yankees during opening weekend, the Astros turned things around on Monday night behind the brilliant no-hit performance from Ronel Blanco. Houston will need more of that as they look to climb the AL West standings after suffering a sweep at the hands of the Yanks over the weekend.

Maton may not pitch for the Astros anymore, but his impact on the AL West division race is already being felt this season. Maton was having some serious control issues on Monday, as he also hit Evan Carter and Adolis Garcia before plunking Jung.

Maton hit nine batters last season while pitching for Houston, which is quite a lot for a reliever. Yohan Ramirez of the Chicago White Sox led all relief pitchers in that category a year ago with 11. While there may be no hard feelings involved, Astros batters may want to proceed with caution when facing Maton and the Rays later this season.

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