a 2009 Texas Rangers: The Rangers face Texas rival Astros
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RIVALRY WEEKEND IN TEXAS


The Rangers go to Houston this weekend, as 2009 inter-league play begins. These teams are geographically 250 miles apart, yet their approaches to putting together a baseball team have been diabolically opposite almost since the beginning. The Rangers always have a prolific offense, while the Astros usually have quality starting pitching.

The Rangers really weren’t an offensive juggernaut in the beginning. When the team moved from Washington in 1972, the configuration of Arlington Stadium allowed an oppressive south wind to blow in from right field, a wind strong enough to kill offense. The stadium was re-configured in the 1980’s with a high right field wall that blocked the wind, and that’s when offense and the Texas Rangers became synonymous. Having hitters named Ruben Sierra, Pete Incaviglia, Larry Parrish and Rafael Palmeiro helped too. When the new stadium opened in 1994, Texas had some pretty good hitters. Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, Rusty Greer, and Will Clark were four just to name a few. Later when the Rangers constructed a high-end club for fans behind home plate at the top of the first level, the wind currents changed creating the jet stream to right center that causes the ballpark to be one of the top home run parks in baseball every season. Having Ranger Rudy Jaramillo as the hitting instructor is also a huge factor aiding the Rangers prolific offense.

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In the beginning of the Houston franchise, General Manager Paul Richards put the emphasis on pitching, an emphasis which has lasted to this day. He surprisingly put together a fairly good rotation from the expansion draft in the Colt .45’s first season (1962), a rotation anchored by Dick Farrell, Ken Johnson, Don Nottebart and Dave Giusti. Houston fans witnessed no-hitters from Johnson and Nottebart in the three years they played at the temporary Colt Stadium, before moving into the Astrodome. In the late 60’s and 70’s, pitchers developed by the organization began to assert themselves, pitchers such as Larry Dierker, Don Wilson and James Rodney Richard. In the 80’s, the Astros had success with a staff anchored by the likes of Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott and Jim DeShais. In the past few years, when the Astros have enjoyed post-season success, their rotation included Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt.

Despite their opposite approaches, neither team has been very successful in post-season play. The Rangers won their first ever playoff game in Yankee Stadium in 1996, and are still looking for a second win, going 0-9 since. The Astros have made multiple playoff appearances in each decade since the 1980’s, but never won a post-season series until 2005, when they lost to the White Sox in the World Series.



 

Over the course of the years, more than 40 players have performed for both franchises, the most notable of which is Nolan Ryan. The teams’ current rosters have Jason Jennings, Carlos Lee, Doug Brocail and Ivan Rodriguez that have played for both teams. Also, Ranger coach Rudy Jaramillo has been the hitting instructor for both teams.

Texas surprisingly comes into the series leading the American League West, but on a three-game losing streak, as they just couldn’t score runs in Detroit this week. It was their first loss out of their last nine series. 22 year-old Derrick Holland is tonight’s surprise starting pitcher for Texas. He is one of two high-end pitching prospects in the Rangers’ farm system, and he was named to take Vicente Padilla’s rotation spot Thursday afternoon. The young lefty has outstanding throwing mechanics, a fastball that often registers 95 plus, and has shown tremendous poise in the seven relief appearances he’s made since being called up from AAA.

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Houston is struggling with a record under .500 and seemingly has little chance of getting back into a playoff race, though at 9-8, is faring better this month. The Astros are in the worst of all worlds. They are the oldest team in baseball, but they really aren’t competitive with the Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals in the National League Central.

In June, the teams play again, three more games in Arlington. The rotating trophy for winning the series is the “Silver Boot”, which currently resides in Arlington. Last year, he teams split the six games, but Texas outscored the Astros 34-28 to win the trophy.

By: Richard W. Humphrey
MLBcenter.com Texas Rangers Correspondent


> View all of the 2009 MLB team previews from Pro Baseball Fans

 

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