Sunday night in a purely American League baseball game, the Houston Astros beat the Texas Rangers. Well, in fairness, the Astros humiliated the Rangers. It wasn't supposed to happen, of course, because the Rangers won 93 games last year while the Astros were losing 107. Everybody said this year was going to just be more of the same.
But there's now plenty of evidence that the Astros have a great shot at winning the Silver Boot and finishing ahead of the Rangers in the American League West.
Here are five reasons why, and before you click on some other link because you think you don't have time for a bunch of wild-eyed, Astronomical boosterism, hear me out ...
They've got just two players on the Disabled List, and neither of them -- outfielder Fernando Martinez and pitcher Alex White -- was expected to play a significant role for the club this season anyway. Meanwhile, the Rangers have opened the season with four key pitchers on the D.L.: Neftali Feliz, Colby Lewis, Martín Peréz, and Joakim Soria. Sure, the Rangers' $120 million payroll might have more talent than the Astros' $18.7 million payroll. But what goes does all that money do if it's not on the field? Which leads us to ...
2. Erik Bedard is better than Derek Lowe.
First game of the season, and the score is still reasonably close in the sixth inning. Texas starter Matt Harrison gets in a jam, with a couple of Astros aboard. So Ron Washington looks out to his bullpen and summons ... Derek Lowe? The 40-year-old with a 5.08 ERA over the last two seasons? So predictably -- I mean, so predictably aside from the fact that Lowe had given up exactly one home run against a pinch-hitter in his whole career, before Sunday night -- Lowe gave up a three-run homer to the first batter he faced, pinch-hitter Rick Ankiel. Meanwhile, when the Astros' starting pitcher got into a jam, No. 5 starter Erik Bedard extinguished the fire and wound up going 3⅓ innings for his first career save. Versatility!
3. The Rangers are old.
This winter they lost Mike Napoli, and replaced him with 36-year-old A.J. Pierzynski and 37-year-old Lance Berkman. Adrian Beltre, for all his talents, has probably played his best. Ian Kinsler's on the down-side of his career. David Murphy and Craig Gentry have both peaked already, too. Elvis Andrus is young ... but it sure looks like even-younger Jurickson Profar won't be getting a shot anytime soon.
4. The Astros are young.
Like, really young. Half their players have to use fake i.d.'s when they want to get drunk; the other half can't vote without committing voter fraud. Just think ... almost every single Houston Astro will probably play better tomorrow than yesterday ... and they played pretty well yesterday. Basically, the Astros have nowhere to go but up, while the Rangers have nowhere to go but ... wait, what's the oppsosite of up? The Rangers have been to three straight postseasons, but nothing lasts forever. Just ask the Philadelphia Phillies.
5. Justin Maxwell is better than Leonys Martín.
Sunday night, the Astros' young center fielder hit a couple of triples and made a couple of brilliant defensive plays. Also Sunday night, the Rangers' young center fielder went 0 for 3 with a couple of strikeouts. Everybody said the Rangers would miss Josh Hamilton, but did anyone realize how much? Oh, and it sure looks like Nelson Cruz might be suspended any day now. What happens when the Rangers are starting Martín, Gentry, and Murphy for week upon week?