As we draw to the end of another year filled with great baseball across the great State of Texas, it is time to reflect on some of the greatest moments of the 2022 season in the second annual State of Texas Baseball Address. In this edition, we take a look and recap the 2022 season with the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers.
Houston Astros (106-56) kicked off 2022 with a slightly different lineup going into Spring Training. With Carlos Correa off to the Minnesota Twins, the Astros were still the favorites to win the American League pennant. Electing not to sign one of the big-time free agent shortstops, the Astros put their faith in rookie Jeremy Peña. A move that would have big dividends at the end of the season.
With a healthy Justin Verlander returning to the starting rotation, the Astros had one of the deepest starting rotations. Mix in Framber Valdez and Lance McCullers Jr., and all Verlander had to do was just pitch, and that’s precisely what he did, which earned him his third Cy Young Award and AL Comeback Player of the Year with a record of 18-4, 1.75 ERA and with 185 strikeouts. The season that Valdez had was nothing short of spectacular. The left-hander led the league in quality starts which ultimately became a single-season league record with 25.
Heading into the postseason with the best record in the American League and home-field advantage, the Astros were ready for the challenge. With a first-round bye, the Astros went into the ALDS facing a division foe in the Seattle Mariners. In Game One, the Mariners looked like they were set to go up 1-0 on the Astros until Yordan Alvarez walked it off in the ninth inning on a three-run home run that stunned the Mariners and set the tone for the rest of the series. The Astros would sweep the Mariners in three games after an 18-inning battle in Seattle that was capped off with a solo home run from Peña to send the Astros to their sixth consecutive ALCS appearance.
Heading into the ALCS, the Astros were met with the matchup that every media outlet wanted, the New York Yankees. Led by the AL home run champ Aaron Judge and ace Gerrit Cole, the Yankees could never catch a break, as Jeremy Peña, Alex Bregman, and Chas McCormick would provide those timely offensive sparks. A bullpen led by Rafael Montero, Bryan Abreu, Hector Neris, and Ryan Pressly would close the book on the Yankees with a four-game sweep as Peña would win the ALCS MVP. The Astros were headed back to the World Series, facing another NL East team, the Philadelphia Phillies.
Heading into the Fall Classic, the Astros had one thing on their side: health. Going into the World Series against the Atlanta Braves in 2021, the Astros almost seemed to be just trying to get by piecing a lineup together. Not in 2022. The Astros had rolled through the postseason with a perfect 7-0, facing a Phillies team that resembled the 2019 Washington Nationals, who would go on the win the World Series against the Astros.
The Astros would jump out to an early lead on not one but two home runs from Kyle Tucker, putting the Astros up 5-0 and possibly up in the series 1-0 with the veteran Verlander on the hill. Like anything in baseball, the game is never over until the last out, and that gave the Phillies life as they would come back to take Game One, 6-5 in extra innings.
The rest of the World Series would be a back-and-forth until Game Four, when the Astros would send Cristian Javier to start the game. From the first pitch, Javier was locked in as he would go six scoreless innings of no-hit baseball. It would be up to the bullpen to finish it, and that’s precisely what Abreu, Montero, and Pressly did as they closed out the game with a combined no-hitter to tie the series up at 2-2.
With the first combined no-hitter in World Series history in the books, the Astros headed into Game Five looking to take the lead in the series with Verlander on the mound. Not having won a World Series game in his career, Verlander was hoping to finally get the monkey off his back. With walks being an issue for Verlander throughout the game, Verlander would go five innings and be the winning pitcher if the Astros could hold on to a 2-1 lead.
The Astros would get a run in the eighth inning to extend the lead to 3-1. Still, the Phillies seemed destined to play spoilers as they were looking to capitalize with runners in scoring position until two unbelievable defensive plays from first baseman Trey Mancini and center fielder McCormick thwarted any chance of a Phillies comeback.
The Astros returned home for Game Six of the World Series, coming off a Game Five win that shifted the momentum in their direction. No matter what happened, the World Series would end in Houston. Game Six has always been a thorn in the Astros side, dating back to the 2017 World Series, as the Astros were 0-3 in the pivotal game. Hoping to right the ship, the Astros were still the favorites with their guy, Valdez, on the mound. With the Astros trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Yordan Alvarez, with one swing, “turns” the game upside down with a 450′ moon shot to centerfield to give the Astros a 3-1 lead. Christian Vazquez would add to the lead with an RBI base hit to put the Astros up for good, 4-1. That would be all, as Tucker would make the final out, and the Astros would be your 2022 World Series Champions for the second time in franchise history.
The Texas Rangers (68-94) ended the 2021 season with its first 100-loss season since 1973. Looking to improve and build a championship-caliber team, the Rangers spent over $500 million to bring in Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Jon Gray to help add a veteran presence to a very young lineup. With this new veteran presence, the Rangers kicked off the 2022 season excited to see what the future would hold.
The Rangers manager Chris Woodard (former), was excited to see how this new offense would produce from a season ago that ranked 29th in (.232) batting average. With the addition of Seager and Semien, the Rangers offense went from being ranked down at the bottom of the league in 2021 to ending the 2022 season ranked 18th (.239) in batting average. Although this might seem like a slight improvement from 2021, for the Rangers, to improve in the win column from one season to the next is something to build upon.
With a managerial change mid-season, the Rangers we’re still building for the future. All-Star pitcher Martín Pérez was this season’s guiding light for this pitching staff, going 12-8 with a 2.58 ERA and 169 strikeouts, which would be a career-high for Perez.
The Rangers also saw the emergence of some young players that fans will get to know a lot of in 2023. In September, Josh Jung was called up to the show. Before the season started, Jung was put on the injured list to recover from having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. In 23 games in Round Rock, Jung had a slash line of .273/.321/.598/.846, which was enough for a September callup. Going into 2023, Jung will look forward to an entire season of growing and improving as the Rangers third baseman. An infield with Jung, Seager, Semien, and Nathaniel Lowe has the potential to be one of the best infields in all of baseball in the coming years.
The Rangers also saw the emergence of Leody Taveras and Bubba Thompson in the outfield in 2022. Taveras broke into the big leagues during the 2020 season for the Rangers and has bounced back and forth between Triple-A Round Rock and the Rangers but was finally able to make it to the big leagues in 2022. With a mix of power and speed, Taveras can be a game-changer within this Rangers lineup at the top or bottom. Drafted out of high school in the first round in 2017, Thompson has been grinding to get to the show after starting the season in Round Rock. In 55 games, Thompson had a slash line of .265/.302/.312/.614 with one home run, but the Rangers excitement is Thompson’s speed on the basepaths.
Both the Astros and Rangers are excited to see what 2023 will bring. Will the Astros repeat as World Series Champions, something that has not been done since the New York Yankees did it from 1998-2000? Will the Rangers improve with their offseason additions to their pitching rotation, including a healthy Jacob deGrom and Nathan Eovaldi? Only time will tell, but we are 86 days away from opening day!
Be sure to comment below on what you expect from the Astros or Rangers in 2023.
Main Image Credit