Don’t look now but the Houston Astros are winning again.
They’ve won 11 of their past 13 games and begin a four-game set with the Rangers on Monday at Globe Life Park.
The Rangers have heated up, too, and have won the first six games against the Astros.
Since last season Texas is 19-6 against Houston. A year ago the Rangers were the team struggling to catch up as the Astros burst out of the gate with an 18-7 start. This year, the Astros started 8-18. But they’ve gone 20-12 since and closing in on .500 for the first time since the season’s opening week.
The Rangers, who started 9-16 in 2015, know the slow start means little, especially for a team many consider a World Series contender.
“I’ve seen that film before, I think we’ve lived that film before,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister joked. “They’re playing very well. We’re going to have be on top of our game. They’re a hot ballclub.”
The Rangers, Banister posited, rose to the occasion against the Astros recently because not only were Lone Star State bragging rights on the line, but the American League West division title was in the balance a year ago.
“They love to play when certain lights shine brighter,” he said. “Early on [in 2015], there was a lot of talk about how fresh that ballclub was and they were on top and they were playing well. Our guys aspire to get talked about like that and be recognized. They want to be the standard-bearers, they want to be the championship team.”
Lewis starts opener
Colby Lewis, who faces right-hander Mike Fiers in Monday’s opener, said there has been no secret ingredient to beating the Astros.
“I don’t know if you can really put a finger on one thing or another,” he said. “I feel like last year there were some games we had to win, especially against a division rival. Maybe we took advantage of some opportunities because we’re a little bit older of a ballclub and we were a little more relaxed in those series. I’m sure they’ve learned.”
Banister, a proud Texan who grew up south of Houston, calls the rivalry a dream come true.
“Whatever team you align yourself with, to have the two teams that are both exciting and both fun to watch play, to get so many games head-to-head in the same division, it makes for a lot of fun,” he said. “We’ve had some things go our way and we’ve played well against them. That’s a terrific ballclub.”
Bobby Wilson had a hole drilled into his left big toe to drain fluid that had built up.
He fouled a ball off the toe in the second inning Friday and was out of the lineup Saturday. He started Sunday and played with a large bandage over the toe. It’s still painful because the nail is basically removed, leaving a raw patch of sensitive skin.
Catcher Robinson Chirinos began a rehab assignment with Triple A Round Rock on Sunday night. Chirinos has been on the DL since April 10 with a fractured right forearm. He’s eligible to return Thursday.
Mariners outfielder Leonys Martin, on the disabled list, made the rounds in the Rangers’ clubhouse before Sunday’s game. He hugged, high-fived and visited briefly with a bunch of former teammates. A player for another team is rarely seen in the opposing team’s clubhouse.