For as much as they have in common, Lance McCullers, Jr. and Preston Tucker barely knew each other before this season.

That's certainly changed during what's been a magical season for the two Houston Astros rookies.

The Jesuit High School graduate McCullers and Plant High School alum Tucker never played together in the minor leagues, and missed a chance to both play at the University of Florida when McCullers chose to turn pro out of high school instead of becoming a Gator like Tucker.

They're now locker mates at Minute Maid Park in Houston, and the duo has helped Houston jump out to a nice lead in the American League West heading into September.

"It's awesome to know him as a teammate now and see what kind of a competitor he is, and being able to share some experiences from Tampa as well," Tucker said.

The Astros are making a push toward their first playoff apperance in a decade.

The two former high school stars at Tampa area high schools have both played a key role in making that happen.

Tucker already has hit 12 homers in a season during which he went from playing his first major league game to an every day player for the Astros.

"The goal's always been to get to the big leagues," Tucker said.  "But now- getting here and being part of something special and winning a lot of ballgames is even more gratifying."

McCullers, who started the season in Double-A, has a 3.21 ERA through 16 major league starts with five wins, averaging more than a strikeout per inning.

"This is what Houston's been working toward," McCullers said.  "This is what the fans have been waiting for.  And it's finally starting to come to fruition, and it's great."

In time, the two could be joined on the Houston roster by Preston's brother, Kyle, who the Astros selected with the 5th overall pick of the 2015 draft.

"I was definitely excited," Preston Tucker said.  "We were on the road in Chicago, and I called him first chance I got to congratulate him.  And I think he was as excited as I was.  Pretty cool experience."

McCullers, whose father, Lance, Sr., pitched for seven years in the big leagues, has enjoyed the brotherhood of current and past major league players who started their careers as high school stars in the Tampa Bay area.

"Tampa's got huge tradition as far as baseball goes," McCullers said.  "And I'm really just proud to be from this city and to carry that tradition a little bit."