ASTROS SWEEP

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Houston Astros continued their dominance over the Texas Rangers this year sweeping a two game series which ran their winning streak to eight consecutive games over Texas.  The sweep coupled with Seattle’s split of their two game series with the Angels, added a game to the Astros’ lead in the American League West.

The sweep also ended the Rangers’ streak of winning five consecutive series.

The Astros knocked Austin Bibens-Dirkx around for two runs in the first inning Tuesday night on a single and two doubles.  Houston came back for three more runs in the third inning on a pair of home runs one with a runner on base.  Both came from left handed batters (Josh Reddick and Tony Kemp), who hit two seam fastballs that started inside and moved over the plate.

That moved the lead to 5-0 for Houston starter Dallas Keuchel.  Texas got one run back in their half of the third inning, with Delino DeShields driving home the run with a double.  Keuchel has been the least reliable starter for Houston this year, but with the early five run lead, he was able to cruise through seven innings, allowing another run in the fifth.  His final line was seven innings pitched, two earned runs allowed on five hits and a walk.  He struck out seven.

The Rangers had their best chance to catch Houston in the eighth inning when they loaded the bases with one out.  However, they were only able to convert that into one run, as the Rangers left the bases loaded.

Hector Rendon put out the fire in the eighth inning and polished off Texas in the ninth inning allowing a hit before retiring the side for his sixth save.  Keuchel is 5-8 with the win, while Bibens-Dirkx fell to 1-2 with the loss.

On Wednesday, the Rangers got out to an early 4-0 lead.  Jurickson Profar was hit by a Gerrit Cole pitch, stole second and scored on Robinson Chirinos’s double in the second inning.  Texas added three more in the third inning with the highlight being Shin-Soo Choo’s 16th home run.

Mike Minor has been the best Ranger starting pitcher of late, and he looked solid in the first three innings.  Houston managed just one hit the first time through the batting order.  That changed in the fourth inning.  A two run home run from Josh Reddick cut the Rangers’ lead in half.  Houston rallied for another run in the fourth and tied the game in the fifth on Yuli Gurriel’s home run.

Cole was done after five innings, and Minor was off to the showers after six.  Both bullpens performed well.  The Astros shut out Texas over the final five innings.  The Rangers’ matched them in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings sending the game to overtime.

The Astros went right to work in the 10th inning.  Jose Altuve singled and moved to second when Gurriel was hit by a pitch.  Both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch, and Evan Gattis pushed the run across with a sacrifice fly.

Ken Giles zipped the Rangers in the bottom of the 10th, retiring all three batters he faced, two by strikeout.  That performance earned Giles his 12th save of the year.  Astro reliever Collin McHugh (4-0) got the win after throwing a scoreless eighth and ninth inning.  Ranger reliever Chris Martin (1-2) was tagged with the loss.

The Rangers completed their home stand with a 4-4 record and now go on their longest road trip of the year starting with Detroit for four games this weekend.  Texas will finish the pre-All-Star game portion of their schedule next week with three game series in Boston and Baltimore.

Texas took two of three games earlier this season at Globe Life Park against the Tigers.  The announced starting pitchers for the Detroit series are Yovani Gallardo on Thursday, Bartolo Colon on Friday, Cole Hamels on Saturday, and Austin Bibens-Dirkx on Sunday.

The Astros return home this weekend to host Chicago.  The announced starting pitchers to face the White Sox are Justin Verlander on Thursday, Lance McCullers, Jr. on Friday, Charlie Morton on Saturday, and Dallas Keuchel on Sunday.

NOTABLE:

*     The Rangers have now lost five straight games on the Fourth of July and are 24-25 all time on that date.

*     The Astros have claimed the coveted Silver Boot trophy for the second straight year.  They lead the Rangers 12 games to four.  Houston and Texas wrap up their head-to-head competition in a three game series at Houston’s Minute Maid Park beginning July 29.

*     Shin-Soo Choo had multi-hit games against Houston to extend his on-base streak to 44 games.  That’s the third longest in Ranger history and the longest in the Majors in almost two years.

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