The Texas Rangers beat the Houston Astros 6-5 on a sacrifice fly by Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland to put them into first place in the AL West by a half game over the Astros.
The Rangers were a sub-.500 team when they acquired Cole Hamels from the Philadelphia Phillies in late July. On August 3rd, the Rangers were 51-53 and 8 games back of the Astros. Since that date, the Rangers have gone 26-14 while the Astros have gone 17-21 over the same period. In September, the Rangers are 9-5 while the Astros are 4-9. The presence of Hamels, the return of Derek Holland and Adrian Beltre from the DL, the MVP calibre performance of Prince Fielder and the emergence of Steve Tolleson as the most underrated closer in the game under the stewardship of first year manager Jeff Banister has made this run possible. With nearly their entire starting rotation on the DL, the Rangers were expected to finish at or near the bottom of the division.
Not much was expected of the Astros either. Instead, they have been in first place most of the year under first year manager A.J. Hinch. They did lose ground to the Los Angeles Angels at the All-Star Break, but retook top spot in the division on July 29th and held onto it until tonight. The Astros do have two more games with the Rangers in this series.
But if the Astros can’t regain top spot in the AL West there is still the second AL Wild Card spot. If the season were to end today the Astros would play the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card game. Currently, the Astros have a 1.5 game lead over the Minnesota Twins for the second AL Wild Card spot.
Even if the Astros manage to rebound and win the AL West, I would still have to pick Banister as AL Manager of the Year. Even if no one expected the Astros to succeed this season they were a team headed in the right direction . The Rangers were in a total shambles after falling apart last year and the ex-Pirate has righted that ship.