First, we would like to apologize for the title of yesterday’s missive, “Astros Destroy Rangers,” mainly because the headline is far better suited to today’s post. Then again, destroy is perhaps too weak a word for Tuesday night’s 14-3 annihilation, which ended whatever playoff hopes the Rangers still had. Indeed, terms such as eviscerated and vivisected would not be out of place.
How convincingly did the Astros defeat the Rangers last night? So convincingly that we almost felt sorry for the hapless boys of Safeco Field. We almost hoped for a sudden storm or other act of God that might allow the umpires to call the game in the seventh inning and put Rangers fans out of their misery.
Almost, we say, for we still have fresh memories of the now-infamous incident last month in which Rangers management refused to let the Astros play a post-Harvey series in Arlington (in exchange for switching the present series to Houston), a refusal which forced the ‘Stros to decamp to St. Petersburg and play the Rangers there. And while we’ve never been the sort to believe in karma, you’ve got to wonder if there isn’t some force supernatural behind the difference between the ‘Stros’ and Rangers’ run production so far in the series (25 and 5, respectively). Of course, the Texas Rangers have a third and final chance to vindicate themselves this afternoon, and the always-charitable Astros may well accommodate their request.
What’s that, you say? Justin Verlander is pitching. Oh, then never mind.
A favorite guessing game around town these days is which of his two aces manager A.J. Hinch will select as starting pitcher in the ‘Stros’ first playoff game, Verlander or Dallas Keuchel. (For our part, we’re still pinching ourselves over the fact that Hinch actually has a choice.) It was Keuchel who got the nod last night and he pitched beautifully, giving up just 5 hits and 2 runs (only one of them earned) in six innings of work. It’s the performance we’d all be talking about today were it not for the Astros’ offense, an exercise in relentless brutality if ever there was one. There were a few moments in the first inning, and again in the fourth, when the shelling was so intense, we almost wished the Rangers had a bunker to hide behind. (Again, almost.)
Don’t take our word for it. Even the Dallas Morning News said the game was a “thrashing that was ugly in every respect.” Even the Fort Worth Star-Telegram said the Rangers lost in “demoralizing fashion.” It was a night in which every single man in the Astros’ starting roster had a hit, four of them had two (George Springer, Yuli Gurriel, Evan Gattis, Cameron Maybin) and a couple had three (Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman). Wondering why you aren’t seeing Jose Altuve’s name among them? Our superstar second baseman sat out the game to give his forearm, which was hit by a pitch in the previous game, time to heal. What, one wonders, might have happened if Altuve had been in the line-up? Safeco Field might well have qualified for disaster relief.
So it was a fun night, to say the least, but also a pivotal win for the Astros and their playoff hopes. For one thing, the Boston Red Sox lost, which means that Houston clinched home field advantage in the playoffs’ first round. For another, the streaking Minnesota Twins (aka our new best friend in the MLB) defeated the Indians, which means that the ‘Stros are now just one game back in the race for the American League’s best record.
Don’t let anybody tell you we can’t catch Cleveland, especially if all this good karma continues. Not that we believe in such a thing, of course.