Ladies and Gentlemen, your first place Texas Rangers.
Damn, that feels good to say. I hope it stays that way for 18 more games.
With that said, here are a collection of my random thoughts about last night, tonight, and the following weeks.
Derek Holland is as good of a human being as he is a pitcher, and that's saying something, because he is one heck of a pitcher. The rotation was shuffled so he was moved up a day (still pitching on regular rest though thanks to Chi Chi's contribution on Sunday) so that Holland could pitch on the one year anniversary of the Briggs Berry's passing. Holland posted a picture of himself with Briggs on his Instagram account with a caption that included "You are truly missed buddy and I will have u with me on the mound tonight. I miss you Briggs and know u are smiling down on us God bless brother.#briggsliveson".
It was clear from the beginning that Holland did not have his best stuff, struggling with his control throughout the night, with only 64 of 106 pitches being thrown for strikes. Holland especially struggled with his fastball early, as he was all over the place in the Astros' four run second inning. However, on what was clearly an emotional night for Holland, he soldiered through and completed 5.2 innings, buckling down his third time through the Houston order.
Prince Fielder seems to be finding his stroke again at the right time, and for the first time this season, Beltre and Fielder are hot simultaneously. Over the last five games, Prince is 9 for 22 with 1 HR, 5 RBI, and 6 runs scored (and some amazing hustle among those six). During that same five game span, Beltre is 10 for 22 with 2 HR, 7 RBI, and 6 runs scored. If those two stay hot, combined with the post-All Star success of Choo, Andrus, and Odor, then look out. If the Rangers can find contributions from LF and C, then I will take their chances against anyone.
As pointed out by our friends over at ShutDown Inning, the Rangers have provided the Astros with a special section at tonight's game, which the Astros have asked their fans to make into a traveling Keuchel's Corner. If you visit http://www.shutdowninning.com/defend-our-house/, you can help defend Globe Life by purchasing these tickets to be donated to firemen, policemen, and members of our military; all while sabotaging the plans of the visiting team.
Speaking of Keuchel's Corner, Rougned Odor does a great job of rubbing people the wrong way (with a similar constant hustle and intensity of one Mr. Bryce Harper). Dallas Keuchel is one of those people. I am greatly interested to see the interactions of these two after the result of their previous dust up earlier this season. I am secretly hoping that Roogie bat flips everything all night. Well, I just told all of you that, so I guess it's not a secret anymore. I also think that the fire and leadership shown by Beltre and Banister while the Astros were playing "Brian McCann, Baseball Police" that night served as a gelling point for this team. Sometimes you kick the wrong bee's nest.
Dave Cameron of FanGraphs, and the favorite baseball analyst of all Rangers fans, stated today that he thinks the Rangers are basically the same team that they were at the beginning of the season, that they have gotten to were they are by only luck, and that the Astros are still the clear favorites to win the AL West. He often holds chats via FanGraphs, where he told Rangers fans today, "their team is winning games based on sequencing. It happens, it’s part of baseball, and it’s benefiting your team this year". He greatly enjoys interactions with Rangers fans via twitter @DCameronFG.
Tonight's game features the aforementioned Dallas Keuchel matched up against a well-rested Martin Perez (he has not pitched since September 9). Martin has pitched in some big situations before and as a Rangers fan, I will happily take my chances with him on the hill.
18 games left this season, five of which are against the Astros. Let's go, anyone playing against the Astros, the Twins, the Angels, and even the Yankees. But first........
Win the damn series.