Rangers, Astros go­ing op­po­site ways at break

Texas on pace for 92 vic­to­ries, Astros look to avoid 100 losses

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS -

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.

John Baze­more

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