HOME FROM HOUSTON

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Rangers surprisingly completed their first winning road trip by taking two of three games in Houston to go with a sweep of three games in Washington for a 5-1 trip. Texas was 3-6 in each of the first three road trips of the season. The result is doubly surprising as competition-wise, both the Nationals and Astros led their respective leagues in wins when the trip began.

It’s a season changer for Texas, at least for the moment. The Rangers are still under .500 at 32-33, and they still trail Houston by 12 games (11 in the loss column); but a poor showing on this road trip would have all but doomed the season.

Monday night was a must win. The Astros had won six of seven meetings in the previous two series between these two Texas teams; and for the Rangers, Monday starter Yu Darvish is their best shot at a win. A loss in Darvish’s start would open the door for an Astros’ sweep.

Darvish was masterful. He completed seven innings allowing a run on only one hit. Texas staked him to a 3-1 lead, but then blew the game open in the eighth inning with a three run Nomar Mazara home run.

Jeremy Jeffress took care of the Astros in the eighth and ninth innings to complete the 6-1 Ranger win.

On Tuesday, Nick Martinez was almost as good. He battled the Astros for six innings with the only scoreboard damage coming on a pair of solo home runs.

The Rangers pushed across a run in the fifth inning to cut the Stro’s 2-0 lead in half, and then tied it on Rougned Odor’s home run in the seventh. An inning later, Odor struck again with a two run shot to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead. That proved to be the game winner.

Jose LeClerc relieved Martinez and earned the win to even his record at 1-1. Matt Bush recorded the final four outs for his eighth save.

Houston looked shell shocked in the first two games. With their two top starters recently going on the disabled list, the Astros swagger was gone. However, on Wednesday, they showed up with a different attitude. They looked more energetic, and played a sharper, crisper game.

Houston scored single runs in the first and second innings to take the lead they would never surrender. The Rangers had a golden opportunity to take charge of the game in the fifth inning. They loaded the bases with no outs to start the frame, but disappointingly pushed across just one run, which came on a wild pitch.

After surviving the fifth inning, Houston did take charge. They scored two in their half of the fifth to answer the Rangers’ run, and then exploded for nine runs in the sixth.

Joey Gallo hit a mammoth home run estimated at 466 feet to finish the Ranger’s scoring. 13-2 was the final score.

For Texas, the biggest factor in the successful road trip was the starting pitching. The starters averaged more than six innings per game and had an ERA of 1.97 in the first five games.

The Rangers returned to Arlington after Wednesday’s game, are off Thursday, and then open a three game series this weekend with Seattle. They are starting to look healthy again. Tyson Ross has been announced as Friday’s starting pitcher. Carlos Gomez is likely to rejoin the team this weekend also. Mike Napoli began his minor league rehab assignment on Wednesday. Cole Hamels will likely begin his minor league rehab assignment this weekend.

There is still a long way to go for the Rangers to get back into the A. L. West race, and they need to play much better ball to be a factor in the Wild Card race. However, the 5-1 road trip against quality opponents and the promise of a healthier roster gives the team more than just hope that they can do both.

NOTABLE:

* The attendance for the series was a disappointing 90,534, an average of 30,178 per game. That total was boosted by a crowd of more than 37,000 for $1.00 hot dog night on Wednesday. Certainly, Houston can’t be happy with the schedule makers. All three of the Rangers – Astros series in Houston this year are during the week. A weekend series would attract fans from not only the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, but from many Texas communities with loyalties to one team or the other.

* Yu Darvish has thrown four games in his career, including Monday night’s, in which he has completed at least seven innings and allowed one hit. Surprisingly, all four such games are against the Astros in Houston.

* On Tuesday, the Rangers and Astros combined for four home runs out of 51 that were hit in Major League baseball that night. That’s the most hit in MLB on any day this season.

* In the quest for the Silver Boot trophy, Houston leads seven games to three with nine to play. Three of the remaining nine games are in Houston and six are in Arlington.

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