Do Astros sweep? Or do Rangers surprise?

Trevor Anderson, Sports Editor

It’s been almost a month since the 2019 MLB Opening Day, and even now, less than a month into the season, fans of the Texas Rangers or the Houston Astros have a lot to be excited about. Before either of them has a chance to get to the World Series, they’ll have to navigate a regular season loaded with strong teams all around. One of the teams starting strong this season is the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays should be a concern for other teams in the American League East, as they’re consistently outperforming the likes of huge and well-funded franchises like the Yankees who are suffering due to multiple injuries and the Red Sox who have seen nearly all of their ‘star power’ underperform recently. They have the potential to knock off the presumed titans of the AL East, but the key lies with consistency this season.
Of course, it’s very early on in the season, and although it’s hard to predict where the Rays will end up when October rolls around, their success isn’t a one-time thing. Even if they don’t make it all the way this year, they have one of the younger teams in the MLB, and a farm system in the minors second only to the San Diego Padres. Even if they don’t come out on top this year, it will definitely be worth it to watch where Tampa Bay goes in the coming years.
One other team that poses a particular threat to both the Astros and the Rangers is the Seattle Mariners. Seattle has won 16 games in a little less than a month of play. Dee Gordon collected his 1000th hit as the Mariners continue to beat opponents down on the road and at home. The Mariners and Gordon especially need to focus on solid contact at the plate and not swinging for the fences, but as it stands, they will pose a serious threat to the AL West and the AL as a whole this season.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the Astros are absolutely worthy of attention this season, especially after winning 100+ games in back-to-back seasons. They were knocked out last season by the Boston Red Sox who steamrolled their way past several other very strong teams, including the 100-win New York Yankees and the 92-win Los Angeles Dodgers on the way to their ninth World Series title. However, much of the core stock of the 2017 Astros that clinched the title still remains. Houston handily beat the Texas Rangers 7-2, aided heavily by a 3-RBI day by Jose Altuve and a three run homerun too. One of the Astros’ prospects I’m most excited to see more out of is Forrest Whitley. Whitley played for Alamo Heights High School, and I was lucky enough to see him play in a playoff game against McCallum. He was dominant, borderline unhittable in high school, and though he had kind of a rocky start with the Astros, he put up convincing numbers in the minor leagues that lead me to believe he’ll be of a lot of use to them in future years. I expect a lot out of the Astros this season, and considering they’re currently only one game behind the 1st place Mariners, it will be interesting to see how the AL West plays out.
The Rangers can’t be overlooked either. My suspicion is that they’ll rely on their offense to carry them through the season. They were able to take down the Astros, with help from a mammoth home run from Joey Gallo that made it 6-0 in the third inning. However, the Rangers struggled with pitching, as they still gave up four runs to the Astros in the same game. The Rangers’ rotation is widely regarded as weak, and the starters’ stats are not encouraging. The Rangers’ rotation suffers from the third worst ERA in baseball, at 6.55, and they tie for the highest amount of walks in the league at the moment. If the Rangers have any chance of getting back on track enough to make it to the World Series, they need to straighten their pitching situation out. Burning through their bullpen this early in the season is a dangerous precedent and is only asking for trouble.
Of the two teams, I think the Astros have the highest chance to win the Series this year. Many of the team’s core players from the 2017 championship team remain, and the distance between them and the 1st place Mariners grows smaller by the day. It will be interesting to see how they do against the Rays, as they fell rather short of a strong victory in spring training. I believe it will be one of those two teams who come out on top in the AL, and honestly I don’t think there’s anyone, save maybe the Dodgers on a good day, who can even have a dream of beating either of those teams in October.