BY: Richard W. Humphrey
Ranger fans can rejoice over the team claiming the coveted “Silver Boot” trophy, awarded each year to the winner of the games between the Rangers and Astros in the I-45 series. Texas beat Houston 6-1 Sunday afternoon to take a 10-2 lead in the series this year with seven games remaining. It is the seventh straight season that the Rangers have won the “Boot”, which until this season was based upon six games each year – three in each city. The Rangers have also won the “Boot” nine times in the 12 seasons since the inception of the rivalry series in inter-league play.
On a more serious note, Sunday’s win was the Rangers’ seventh in a row, all on the road, which is a season high. The seven game winning streak is also the longest current winning streak in the Major Leagues. Over the past two weeks, Texas has won 11 of 12 games to erase a six game deficit in the A. L. West Division, which they now lead by one game over the Athletics. The surge has moved the Rangers’ record to 68-50, a season high 18 games over .500. That is the second best record in team history after 118 games, trailing the 1999 Rangers which won 69 of the first 118.
In just two games, the acquisition of Alex Rios looks to be a major boost for Texas. He has four hits in seven at bats, two of which were for extra bases. On Saturday, he tripled in the eighth inning driving home Engel Beltre to tie the game at four. He then scored on a ground ball to second base. The throw home clearly beat Rios to the plate, but a solid slide dislodged the ball from Jason Castro’s tag for the go ahead run, that turned out to be the winning run. Sunday he drove in another run and scored twice in the Rangers’ 6-2 win.
Rios has long been considered to be a better talent than his performance on the field, which has quite frankly been ordinary this year before his arrival in Texas. The change of scenery has to be a plus. He went to bed Thursday night as a member of the last place White Sox which trailed Detroit by 25 games. After Sunday’s game, he boarded the plane for Arlington as a member on the first place Rangers with a one game divisional lead over Oakland. Assistant General Manager Thad Levine said on a local radio show Friday that they considered Ron Washington a plus in the Rios trade, fully expecting Washington to bring out the best in Rios.
Washington is obviously pleased to have Rios on the team. After Sunday’s game, he said about Rios, “He’s a complete ballplayer. He can do a lot of things to help you win a ball game.”
Also, Leury Garcia was officially identified as the player to be named later in the trade for Rios, as speculated. Garcia now joins the White Sox in a deal that has to be a good break for his career.
Sunday’s win dropped the Astros 42 games under .500. Three more losses will clinch a losing season, and they are on pace to finish 52-110. In short, they are an absolute disgrace to baseball. They are for sure a team the Rangers should beat and have 10 times in the first 12 meetings. The teams wrap up this four game series on Monday afternoon, a game that Yu Darvish is scheduled to start. He will face Astros’ lefty Brett Oberholtzer. The teams then play two more three game series in Arlington this year.
The light schedule stretch continues for Texas as every opponent until September 2 currently has a losing record. They are back home Tuesday for an eight game home stand against Milwaukee, Seattle and Houston.