Rangers, Astros going opposite ways at break
Texas on pace for 92 victories, Astros look to avoid 100 losses
The All-Star break has arrived with the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros on the opposite ends of the spectrum.
Texas leads the American League West by 41⁄ games with a 50-38 record. The Rangers
2 are particularly adept at home, going 31-19, in spite of just being swept in a four-game home series by the worst team in the major leagues, the Baltimore Orioles.
The Rangers just acquired the top prize in the trade market, ace starting pitcher Cliff Lee, surrendering a package of prospects from their deep minor league system.
“There is every reason to believe we will make the postseason,’’ team president Nolan Ryan said. Texas is on pace for a 92-victory season. Houston, on the other hand, could be headed
Continued from C1 for a 100-loss season. The Astros are 36-53, buried in fifth place in the National League Central, 121⁄ games behind the surprising Cincinnati Reds.
Only the presence of the dreadful Pittsburgh Pirates is keeping Houston out of last.
The Astros reacted Sunday by firing their batting coach, giving franchise icon Jeff Bagwell a shot at the job.
But the bigger news for Houston in the season’s second half will be made if owner Drayton McLane finally bows to his personnel people and gives the green light to trade starting pitcher Roy Oswalt and perhaps even first baseman Lance Berkman for prospects.
Unlike the Rangers, the Astros’ farm system is a wreck at the upper levels and the franchise needs an infusion of young talent.
The All-Star game is Tuesday night in Anaheim, Calif., and after that there will be no shortage of second-half stories, starting with the division races:
The Yankees have a 2-game lead on the Rays, with the injury-ravaged Red Sox recently falling to five games back. But Boston figures to get healthier and make this a fun three-for-all.
The White Sox seemed dead and buried in May. Now they’ve surged into the lead by a half game over the Tigers with the slumping Twins 31⁄ back.
Even when the Rangers went into a tailspin last week, they didn’t lose ground because the Angels Chipper Jones, right, and the Braves are back in familiar spot — atop the NL East. Atlanta holds a four-game lead on Mets. faltered badly, too.
The Braves are back, the Braves are back. Bobby Cox, in his final goround, has a 4-game lead on the Mets. The defending league champion Phillies, torpedoed by injuries, are 41⁄ back.
In a two-horse race, the Reds are up one length on the Cardinals, the long-time dominant force in the division. Don’t expect young and hungry Cincinnati to collapse, either.
The most wideopen division. Four teams are separated by four games. The Padres, nobody’s pick to win it coming into the season, have a slight edge on the Dodgers and hot Rockies. The Giants, with strong pitching, are just four behind.
Pitching has dominated this season. There have been four no-hitters — Dallas Braden, Ubaldo Jimenez, Roy Halladay and Edwin Jackson — and Washington’s Stephen Strasburg has taken over the nation’s capital.
More than a dozen starting pitchers have ERA’s in the 2.00s. A half-dozen closers have ERA’s in the 1.00s.
Fittingly, the signature moment of the first half of this season also came on the mound with Armando Galarraga’s near-perfect game for the Detroit Tigers. Jim Joyce’s blown call that cost Galarraga a place in the record book renewed calls for extending replay in major league ballparks, but it was the classy way that Joyce and Galarraga handled the fallout that still resonates.