BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers again won two of three games in their second series of the season.  Just as they did against the Cubs last weekend, the Rangers dropped game one of this week’s series to Houston, but came back to win games two and three to start the season with a 4-2 record.  The Astros are strong favorites to win the American League West, but they limped out of town with a 2-5 record that put them in fourth place in the division trailing first place Seattle by 4.5 games.

Drew Smyly made his first Ranger start in Monday’s series opening game, and the Rangers were pleased with his performance, even though he had control problems.  He  walked just two batters, but threw 73 pitches to get through three innings allowing a run on four hits, with the Astros’ run coming on a lead-off home run by George Springer.

Adrian Sampson relieved and finished the game.  He was just called up that day and pitched six solid innings, allowing a run on four hits. Unfortunately, the Ranger bats were quiet  They erupted for just two hits, one a Ronald Guzman home run.  That was all the scoring – Houston won 2-1, and Sampson (0-1) was tagged with the loss despite becoming the first Ranger pitcher to complete six innings in a game this season.

Brad Peacock pitched into the seventh surrendering both Ranger hits and the lone run to earn the win.  He’s 1-0, and Rafael Osuna pitched a one-two-three ninth inning on 14 pitches to earn his first save of the season.

Tuesday was a delightful night at the ballpark weather-wise, and the players accommodated the fans with a delightful game to watch.  The Astros continually threatened early, but somehow, the Rangers limited them to single runs in the first, second, fifth and sixth innings.  Houston clubbed out a dozen hits (four doubles and eight singles), but grounded into two double plays and went 1-11 with runners in scoring position to strand 11 runners on base.

Asdrubal Cabrera tied the game at two in the second inning with his third home run of the season with Joey Gallo on base.  After the Astros re-took the lead in the fifth inning, the Rangers answered with two runs of their own to take their first lead of the season before the seventh inning.  Shin-Soo Choo led off with a triple.  After Rougned Odor was hit by a pitch, Elvis Andrus drove in Choo with a single, and Nomar Mazara followed with another single to plate Odor.

Astros’ starting pitcher, Justin Verlander was pulled in the fifth inning with no outs.  The patient Ranger hitters had run his pitch count up to 94, and he was charged with four runs on the night to push his ERA up to 4.09.

In the seventh inning, Odor singled and Andrus doubled to put runners at second and third.  One out later, Gallo followed with a sharp single that pushed both Odor and Andrus across the plate to make the score 6-4, which was the final score.

Shawn Kelley closed out the sixth inning and pitched the seventh, shutting down Houston on one hit.  He was the winning pitcher to go to 2-0 for the season.  Chris Martin pitched a scoreless eighth inning, and Jose Leclerc needed just six pitches to shut down the Astros in the ninth.  It was Leclerc’s second save of the season.  Framber Valdez was the losing pitcher.  He’s 0-1.

The Rangers played their best game of the year Wednesday night to clinch the series.  Mike Minor led the charge by turning in the best pitching performance of the year as he completed seven shutout innings, allowing five hits and walking two.  He struck out seven Astros.  Kelley and Leclerc easily dispensed the Astros in the eighth and ninth innings, allowing one hit and retiring the other six batters they faced.

On the offensive side, Andrus singled in the first inning after lead-off strikeouts from Choo and Odor to start the inning.  Mazara singled him home after Andrus stole second base as the Rangers manufactured a run to take the 1-0 lead.

The Rangers rallied for two more runs in the fourth inning, with both runs again scoring with two outs.  Hunter Pence singled home Gallo and then scored himself on Guzman’s double.  The score stayed 3-0 until the eighth inning as Houston’s Gerrit Cole was dealing.  Cole struck out nine Rangers in six innings despite being visibly upset over the strike zone that home plate umpire Ron Kulpa was calling.  Astros manager A. J. Hinch and hitting coach Alex Cintron were ejected by Kulpa in the second inning.

Mazara hit his second home run of the season in the eighth inning to complete the Rangers’ scoring.  4-0 was the final score.  Minor is 1-1 with the win, while Cole is 0-2 after being charged with the loss.

The 4-2 home stand is a great start for the rebuilding Rangers.  Candidly, they have to be thrilled to take both series to start the season as the opponents have won two of the last three World Series, were both in the playoffs last year, and both are strong favorites to make the playoffs again this year.

The Rangers now depart for Anaheim to start a six game road trip.  The first four games are against the Angels, and the starting pitchers for Texas will be Edinson Voluez (0-0), Lance Lynn (0-0), Drew Smyly (0-0) and Shelby Miller (0-0) in that order.  All four will be making their second start of the year.  Game time’s are 9:07 PM (Central) for the Thursday and Friday games, 3:05 PM (Central) on Saturday and 3:07 PM (Central) on Sunday.


*     Asdrubal Cabrera and Elvis Andrus were charged with errors in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s game, the first two errors of the season for Texas.  Andrus was originally charged with a throwing error in Tuesday’s game, but the scoring call was changed to a hit on Wednesday.

*     The official paid attendance on Monday and Tuesday was 18,056 and 17,907.  Those are the two smallest crowds ever to see the Astros play in Arlington.  The attendance bounced back to 22,265 on Wednesday, ostensibly for “Dollar Hot Dog” night.  Total attendance for the home stand was 189,816 (31,636 per game).

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