The Rangers are 15-3 against the Astros this season with one game remaining between the two teams. The difference between them in the standings is 11.5 games. Little things have made a difference. Twelve of the Rangers’ 15 wins are by two runs or fewer. Eight are by one run.
With one game left, let’s look at who the difference-makers have been.
Matchup MVP: Rougned Odor
Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor has caused the Astros problems all season. He’s hitting .329 with a .686 slugging percentage against them, with six home runs and 19 RBIs in 17 games, including a game-winning homer on Monday night. Tuesday, he didn’t beat them with an RBI, but with a strikeout. He reached when Ken Giles’ pitch was wild, stole second and scored the tying run on Elvis Andrus’ two-out triple.
Two players have done a lot in limited duty. Jurickson Profar is hitting .360 with nine hits, including the game-winner on Tuesday. Carlos Beltran has four home runs and eight RBIs, with 10 hits in eight games.
Matchup Cy Young: Cole Hamels
Cole Hamels has two wins and a 1.66 ERA in three starts against the Astros. He allowed two runs or fewer in all three starts, the best of which was an 11-strikeout effort on May 22.
Reliever-wise, Jake Diekman has 12 strikeouts and one hit allowed in 7⅓ innings, with two saves and six holds in 10 appearances.
Key to the matchup: Getting Correa and Springer out
The Rangers have won largely because they’ve stymied the Astros' big bats. Carlos Correa is hitting .167 in 66 at-bats and George Springer is hitting .149 in 74 at-bats. Springer has been the final out in four of the losses, three in which he represented the tying or winning run. The two were a combined 0-for-7 on Tuesday. In fact, Astros other than Jose Altuve were 1-for-25 on Tuesday.
Altuve is hitting .275 against the Rangers this season. His teammates are hitting .212.