In a year with far fewer exciting playoff races than most, we actually get a high-leverage series with playoff implications this week: the Houston Astros face the Texas Rangers in Arlington for four games starting tonight.
Scott Kazmir will take the mound against Cole Hamels in tonight’s contest. Each of these guys started someplace else this year, with the Astros picking up Kazmir as a means of shoring up the rotation with an eye on the playoffs. Perhaps internally the Rangers knew that getting Hamels from the Phillies would aid them in their push for the playoffs in 2015, but most outsiders assumed that was a play for next year. Now, Hamels stands to help pull the Rangers, who are already in playoff position, to within a half game of the division-leading Astros and Kazmir looks to fight-off a hard-charging Rangers club that was eight games back in the beginning of August before sweeping the Astros in Houston.
Since (and including) that series, the Rangers are 24-14, the Astros are 17-20. Some might say that gives the Rangers the momentum, but in baseball everyone knows that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher.
This is not the last series between these teams — they meet in Houston for a three game set starting a week from Friday — but this is, by far, the biggest series between baseball’s two Texas teams ever.