BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers closed out their best week of the season, by taking the final two games of their three game series with the Houston Astros.  They finished the week with five wins in six games, and closed out the home stand with six wins in eight games. The Rangers have moved solidly into third place in the American League West at 12-8, just one-half game behind Houston and 1.5 games behind league leading Seattle.

Houston came into the series as the hottest team in baseball winning 10 of their previous 11 games, and the pitching match-ups in this series heavily favored the Houstonians.  However, the Rangers scrambled back after losing game one to Justin Verlander to score 20 runs on Saturday and Sunday to win the series.

Verlander last faced the Rangers on April 2, completing just four innings in a game Texas won.  He looked intent on paying the Rangers back in this weekend’s opening game, as he tossed seven innings of one run ball en route to a 7-2 win.  He gave up three hits and walked three of the 27 batters he faced.  One of those hits was a Danny Santana home run, his first as a Ranger

The first three batters of the game scored to give the Astros an early 3-0 lead.  George Springer doubled, and he was followed by home runs from Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman.  All three hits were clocked with exit velocity in excess of 100 MPH.

Drew Smyly was the Ranger starting pitcher that was rocked with those round trippers.  He lasted 3-2/3rds innings and needed 102 pitches to do it.  He was touched for four runs on five hits, though he did strike out eight of the 11 batters he retired.

Joey Gallo hit a mammoth home run, his seventh, in the ninth inning for the Rangers’ other score.  Verlander is 3-0 with the win, while Smyly drops to 0-2 with the loss.

Saturday’s game was similar in flow with the roles reversed.  This time it was the Rangers that took the early lead, scoring five first inning runs.  Shin-Soo Choo doubled to lead off the bottom of the first and promptly scored on Santana’s single.  Two walks followed to load the bases, and a one out single scored two more.  The final two runs scored on another hit and an Astro fielding error.

Adrian Sampson was the Ranger starting pitcher, and he lasted into the fifth inning.  He ended up allowing two runs on seven hits.  Shawn Kelley relieved and was credited with the win.  He’s 3-0.

Texas added another run in the third inning on Gallo’s eighth home run.  Gallo doubled in the fifth inning and scored again on an Asdrubal Cabrera single.  Delino DeShields closed out the Rangers’ scoring later in the inning with a two run triple to make the final score 9-4.

Gerrit Cole was the Astros’ starting and losing pitcher.  He gave up all nine runs, a career high.  Cole is 1-3 on the season.

Sunday’s game started like Saturday’s.  The Rangers again scored runs early with three in the first inning.  Gallo tripled home two runs and scored on Hunter Pence’s sacrifice fly.  The Astros got one run back in the third inning on Michael Brantley’s sacrifice fly, but the Rangers immediately answered with four runs in their half of the inning.  Gallo drove in the first run with a groundout, and Pence and Logan Forsythe each homered.  Pence’s came with a man on base to give the Rangers a seemingly commanding lead at 7-1.

The seemingly commanding lead grew to 10-1 with three more Ranger runs in the fourth inning.  Elvis Andrus doubled home two runs, and Gallo hit a sacrifice fly.

Shelby Miller was the Ranger’s starting pitcher, and he became just the second starting pitcher not named Mike Minor or Lance Lynn to complete five innings in a game.  Miller held the Astros to one run through five innings, but he was greeted with a pair of home runs leading off the sixth inning by Bregman and Brantley.  He retired Carlos Correa on a pop out for the only out he would record in the inning.  Yuri Gurriel then reached on an error and Miller’s day was done.

Jeffrey Springs relieved and gave up a single and a triple before getting the last two outs on a sacrifice fly and a strikeout.  When the dust had cleared, it was game on at 10-6.

Gallo singled home a run in the bottom of the sixth to get the lead back to five runs at 11-6.  It was a strange hit – a high pop that at first looked to be coming down in short right field, but got wind blown to short left field, where five Astros surrounded it, but none caught it.

Houston got two runs back in the eighth inning on solo home runs by Correa and Josh Reddick.  The ninth inning was much more tense for Texas.  Jose Leclerc took the mound to earn the save, but he had control problems.  He was greeted by a Springer home run to start the inning, closing the Ranger lead to 11-9.  A walk, a line out to right field and a strikeout brought Leclerc within one out of earning that save.  He couldn’t get it.  He walked the next three batters to make it a one run game at 11-10.

At that point, Leclerc had thrown 36 pitches, only 17 of which were strikes, and manager Chris Woodward made the change bringing in  veteran Shawn Kelley.  Kelley did the job, striking out Robinson Chirinos for the save, his first of the year.

The Rangers now hit the road next week for three games in Oakland and four in Seattle.  The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Mike Minor (2-1) on Monday, Lance Lynn (2-1) on Tuesday and Drew Smyly (0-2) on Wednesday.  Game times are 9:07 PM (Central) on Monday and Tuesday, and 2:37 PM (Central) on Wednesday.


*     The Rangers at 12-8 are four games over .500 for the first time since 2016.  They also hold a 4-2 lead over the Astros for the treasured Silver Boot trophy that goes to the winner of the season series between the two Texas teams.

*     Joey Gallo is a solid candidate for American League Player of the Week as he hit .478 with four home runs and 11 RBIs.

*     The schedule can be strange at times.  After Sunday’s play the Astros have played six of their 21 games at their home field – Minute Maid Park in Houston – and have played the same number against the Rangers in Globe Life Ballpark.

*     Joey Gallo’s sacrifice fly was his first in the Major Leagues after more than 1,300 plate appearances.

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