With seven games to go in the regular season and the AL West Division long since cinched up, you might think that the Houston Astros have little to play for these days.
You’d be mistaken.
The Astros are still hot in pursuit of the Cleveland Indians for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. That honor will go to the team with the best overall record when all’s said and done. As of this writing, Houston sits 2.5 games behind Cleveland in the race to the top.
There’s more. Starting tonight, the ‘Stros are in Arlington to take on the Texas Rangers. Though the rivalry between the two teams cooled somewhat this season following Houston’s torrential first half, expect these games to pack in plenty of drama. Texas is clinging to a stake in the AL Wild Card chase, and would effectively need to sweep Houston out of town in order to keep their postseason hopes alive.
In addition, this series will decide the 2017 winner of the coveted Silver Boot—that’s the trophy given out to whichever of the two Texas teams wins the season series. The Rangers won the Boot in 2015 and 2016, but the Astros carry a commanding 9-7 lead into action tonight. Again, Texas would need a sweep to claim the prize.
Houston looks to Collin McHugh to set the tone tonight. McHugh has pitched well in limited action this year after missing much of the season due to injury. He’s 3-2 with a 3.44 ERA, and he’ll use tonight’s start to audition for a spot in the postseason starting rotation behind Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander.
Andrew Cashner toes the rubber for Texas. The veteran righty matches McHugh’s 3.44 ERA perfectly, and he’s been even better in Arlington. Expect a close game and a raucous series—just how baseball should be in late September.
Beltran Family Establishes Hurricane Relief Fund
Astros slugger Carlos Beltran was born in Puerto Rico, and maintains a home there to this day. He was distraught at the damage wrought to his native island by Hurricane Maria, and established a fund with his wife to help provide relief. The family kicked off the fund with a $1 million donation—you can add to that total here.
Whitley, Tucker Honored by Organization
A pair of future Astros—outfielder Kyle Tucker and pitcher Forrest Whitley—were honored by the club at Minute Maid Park on Sunday for their outstanding minor league seasons. Tucker, 20, batted .274 with 25 home runs and 21 steals, flashing a tantalizing power-speed potential. Whitley pitched to a 2.83 ERA and struck out 143 batters in just 92.1 innings. Both players reached AA Corpus Christi this season.