Forget records for a second. Forget the fact that Houston is playing .704 ball and that Texas is playing .481. Forget Houston is in first and Texas is in third. That Texas is 12.0 games behind.
Forget that Houston is on pace to win 114 games. And Texas is on pace to win 77. And that would have the Rangers finishing 36 games out of first place.
Forget the bullpen, Sam Dyson, Tony Barnette and Jeremy Jeffress.
Forget them for a day.
And look at the pitching matchup tonight between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers.
Dallas Keuchel against Yu Darvish. Their best against our best.
Of course, on paper, Keuchel wins hands down. For one thing, he hasn’t lost a game yet this season. For another thing, he gives up fewer than two runs a game. Darvish will surely give up two runs with two pitches in the fifth.
But this is a good old fashioned pitcher’s duel. Gibson and Drysdale. Koufax and Marichal. Seaver and Carlton. Those were always matchups you circled on the calendar. And games you had to watch.
Neither pitcher has exactly been lights against the other team. In 28 games, Keuchel is 5-7 with a .424 ERA against the Rangers. Darvish is 4-4 with a .351 in 12 games against Houston.
Last year, when Keuchel struggled, he was 1-3 against Texas. That one, though, was a complete game shutout in August. In his Cy Young year, he was 20-8 for the season, but just 3-2 against the Rangers, including one 14-3 to Rangers pounding put on him at the Ballpark.
Last year, when Darvish was coming off Tommy John surgery, he won a game and lost two to Houston. But in 2014, he threw a one-hitter in at the Astros, and in 2013, in his near-Cy Young season, on opening day, Darvish came within one out of a perfect game against Houston.
In a year that has had a lot of forgettable baseball played by the Texas Rangers, tonight’s game should be a good one.
If you forget that the last three innings will feature the imflammable Rangers bullpen.
And forget that the Astros could clinch tomorrow night.
Dallas Keuchel (8-0, 1.81) vs. Yu Darvish (5-3, 2.97)
Game time: 7:05