While the Astros and Rangers may be intrastate rivals by definition, the fact that they are connected by Interstate Highway 45 has most fans calling the rivalry the I-45 rivalry. With the Houston Astros playing against the Texas Rangers for the first time of the 2016 season, both sides know that the other could be their greatest threat in reaching the playoffs. In what is looking like a very competitive American League, the AL West may bare only one seed this year, meaning that each of the 19 games the two squads play against each other will be more than just another game in a long season.
In 2015, both teams surprised almost everyone when they recovered from down years the previous season and secured playoffs spots. While the Rangers can credit much of their success to the Astros (13-6 vs. the Astros in 2015), the Astros too could not have made the playoffs without the Rangers after earning a crucial series victory at Minute Maid Park in the final week of the season shortly after being swept in a four game series in Arlington the previous week.
The Rangers have a strong home field advantage against the Astros in Arlington. Entering the 2016 season, the Rangers have won the last 7 meetings at Globe Life Park, and most of them have been ugly. Most notably is the August 3rd match up that saw the Astros’ Lance McCullers give up 6 earned runs on 7 hits while recording only one out. The game played a crucial role for both teams as the Astros, who at the time were leading the AL West with a 60-47 record, began to fall from their demanding lead in the West. While the Rangers, who were in third place in the AL West on August 3rd with a 52-53 record, began their ascent to the pennant.
In some more drama last season, shortly after the Astros gave up first place to the Rangers, Astros fans were ready to seek revenge as Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel had the ball heading into a September 16th game in Arlington. Much to their dismay, the Rangers pounced on Keuchel early, scoring 6 in the bottom of the first and subsequently taking Keuchel out after 4 1/3 innings. Luckily for Astros fans, Keuchel and sidekick McHugh were able to get victories over Texas at Minute Maid Park in the waning games of 2015, victories that proved to be very important to the Astros’ wild card berth.
This season, expect the two clubs to take plenty of shots against each other in their respective pursuits of the AL pennant. While the Rangers sport big name veterans such as Fielder, Beltre and Hamels, the Astros counter with their young studs Altuve, Springer, and of course Correa. That’s not to forget many other names such as Rougned Odor, the player that caused a bench clearing between the opposing teams in the 9th inning of a July 18th game last year, and Carlos Gomez, a player that is well known to put on a show. Both players, as well as their teammates, will undoubtedly drive opposing fans crazy this year. With the Silver Boot (the trophy awarded to the team that wins the season series) holding a much higher significance this year after serving as a mere paperweight in previous years, it’s very likely that the winner of the season series will have the better position heading into what looks like to be very competitive 2016 American League Playoff race with a slew of revamped teams such as the Red Sox and White Sox that are looking to contend.