Game time: 7:05 p.m. ET
Venue: Globe Life Field, Arlington, TX
Where to watch: AT&T SportsNet-SW, Bally Sports Southwest
Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks
DraftKings: Astros -240, Rangers +195
Season record (entering Friday)
Astros: 75-52 (1st place, AL West)
Rangers: 44-83 (Last place, AL West)
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Astros - Rangers preview and analysis
Astros: 5-5 in last 10
Rangers: 3-7 in last 10
Talk about a very late “trade deadline” acquisition. Alex Bregman is back, and the Houston Astros are ready to make their playoff push.
The two-time All-Star returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing 59 games with a quad injury, and made an immediate impact. Bregman went 2-for-5 with an RBI and scored the game-winning run in Houston’s 6-5 win over the Kansas City Royals at Minute Maid Park.
“I can’t wait to put the uniform on again and play,” Bregman said after his first game
since June 16. “I’ve been waiting to do this for a long time the last two months. I’m going to definitely cherish every pitch and every second of it.”
The Astros have not faltered heavily in their pursuit of another American League West division title, and the return of Bregman will surely aid in that. The Astros hit the road for a three-game series against the Texas Rangers.
The teams are playing the second game of a three-game set Saturday in Arlington..
Houston has benefitted greatly from the Oakland Athletics’ recent slide of losing five straight games. The Astros carry a 5.5-game lead on Oakland, who just lost to the New York Yankees in the first game of their four-game set. The Seattle Mariners, who continue to creep toward a wild card spot, are 6.5 games out.
Bregman’s return gives a boost to what’s already been the top batting team in the league. The Astros’ .268 average is tops by five percentage points on the Toronto Blue Jays. Their 166 home runs are good for ninth-best; don’t forget it was just two years ago that Bregman belted a career-high 41 homers and was second in AL MVP voting.
Despite an 0-for-5 day from Jose Altuve, the Astros got enough offensively, including Bregman. Yordan Alvarez hit his 26th home run while going 2-for-5, and Kyle Tucker and Jake Meyers combined for four hits in the 7-8 spots.
Framber Valdez is expected to start for the Astros on Saturday. The left-hander carries an 8-4 record this season with a solid 2.94 ERA. As Houston continues to make rotation decisions heading into September, Valdez is making a strong case from the way he’s mowing down opposing batters.
The Rangers had already been reeling from a bad season, but now a COVID outbreak has tested Texas’ depth in the farm system. Starting catcher Jonah Heim is in protocol, as well as infielders Brock Holt and Charlie Culberson. Pitchers Dane Dunning and Spencer Howard also remain in protocol from time in Boston.
On Wednesday, the Rangers had rookie Jake Latz make his debut in a loss. Thursday was more of a rough day for Jordan Lyles, going only 3.2 innings and giving up eight runs in a 10-6 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
Otherwise, it was a solid offensive day for the struggling Rangers. Nick Solak went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI, and much-maligned left fielder DJ Peters actually hit a home run in the eighth to raise his batting average to a whopping .179 in the cleanup spot.
It’s just been that kind year for the Rangers. If Adolis Garcia isn’t raking, and if Isiah Kiner-Falefa isn’t getting on base, the offense falls flat. Now with Heim out, the excitement just dies in Arlington.
Kolby Allard will be on the mound for Texas when first pitch commences. The southpaw has struggled heavily this season, going 3-10 with a 4.86 ERA. Last time out was actually a good outing for Allard; he went six innings and had five strikeouts in a no-decision against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
The world is about to be reminded very quickly of how entertaining an Astros game can be from all sides; whether you accuse them of cheating or are just a fan. Either way, Bregman’s return is going to be a long-term jolt in this group. If they start reeling off wins, we have to reconsider their stance in the American League. Astros win 8-4.
The Astros are 62-39 (-5.3 games on the money line) when favored by at least -110 this season.
The Rangers are 20-36 (0 games on the line) when an underdog of +150 or more.
Astros: RF Chas McCormick (undisclosed, 10-day IL)
Rangers: C Jonah Heim (COVID), SP Dane Dunning (COVID), SS Charlie Culberson (COVID)
Players to watch
Astros: In an odd year where Jose Altuve isn’t challenging for the batting crown, he has a teammate that is. Yuli Gurriel enters Friday with a six-game hitting streak. While he may only have two homers and five RBI in August, his ability to get on base has been key for the Astros’ season.
Rangers: One player that hasn’t been talked enough about with the Rangers is first baseman Nate Lowe. The 26-year-old went 0-for-4 Thursday, but prior to that, he had a five-game hitting streak, including a 5-for-5 day at Fenway Park last Saturday. He’s a sneaky contributor in the middle of the lineup.
Jose Altuve (R) 2B
Aledmys Diaz (R) LF
Yuli Gurriel (R) 1B
Yordan Alvarez (L) DH
Carlos Correa (R) SS
Alex Bregman (R) 3B
Kyle Tucker (L) RF
Jake Meyers (R) CF
Martin Maldonado (R) C
Isiah Kiner-Falefa (R) SS
Andy Ibanez (R) DH
Adolis Garcia (R) RF
DJ Peters (R) LF
Nathaniel Lowe (L) 1B
Jose Trevino (R) C
Nick Solak (R) 2B
Leody Taveras (S) CF
Ryan Dorow (R) 3B
Batting average: Yuli Gurriel (.316)
Hits: Jose Altuve (130)
Home runs: Yordan Alvarez (26)
RBI: Yordan Alvarez (86)
Stolen bases: Kyle Tucker (11)
Wins: Zack Greinke (11)
Saves: Ryan Pressly (19)
ERA: Lance McCullers Jr. (3.32)
Batting average: Isiah Kiner-Falefa (.265)
Hits: Isiah Kiner-Falefa (135)
Home runs: Adolis Garcia (27)
RBI: Adolis Garcia (71)
Stolen bases: Isiah Kiner-Falefa (16)
Wins: John King (7)
Saves: Ian Kennedy (16)
ERA: Mike Foltynewicz (5.54)
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