Two mirror-opposite games. On Friday night, the Astros jumped on the Rangers early and never let up. On Saturday night, the Rangers returned the favor.
It all starts with starting pitching. On paper, this was a no-brainer. And this is why baseball is impossible to handicap.
Gerrit Cole has started 164 major league games. Adrian Sampson has started just seven. Yet Sampson was the one with poise and control and Cole was the one who melted down and fell apart. It was as if he expected the Rangers to respect his pedigree. They didn’t. Nor his 100-mile-per-hour fastball.
Both starters showed what they were made of. Cole is immense talent wrapped inside immaturity. Sampson is grit fueled by survivalism.
Ironically, before the game, the Houston Chronical interviewed Astros manager A.J. Hinch about his All-Star starter. He gushed about Cole’s fortitude. “Never has Cole permitted unsavory luck or unsuccessful pitches to rattle his psyche,” the article quoted.
Well, that’s out the window.
Rangers batters rattled Cole. They frustrated him. His catcher frustrated him. His lack of command frustrated him. A blooper that fell beyond the reach of two fielders frustrated him. An error frustrated him.
What happens when you let the game derail you? A meltdown first inning that included 43 pitches, five runs, and the worst outing of Cole’s career as an Astro.
Meanwhile, Adrian Sampson had his best start ever. It came at a good time. The Rangers really needed a decent start from the back end of their rotation. While they didn’t get depth, they did get quality.
Sampson lasted just 4.1 innings. The Rangers have now played nineteen games. They haven’t had a starter make it through five innings in eleven of them.
But they’re winning.
Their starters aren’t going deep. But they’re not going ballistic either.
Colin McHugh (3-01, 1.96) vs. Shelby Miller (0-1, 9.00)
Game time: 2:05