ASTROS SWEEP

1-5 WEEK DROPS RANGERS TO AL WEST BASEMENT

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Houston Astros solidly pounded the Texas Rangers Sunday afternoon in Minute Maid Park, 15-5 to complete a four game sweep and knock the Rangers into last place in the American League West.  The Astros have taken control of the Division with a 26-15 record.  The other four teams in the West are under .500.   Houston now has a 6.5 game lead over the second place Los Angeles Angels.  Texas at a season high four games under .500 at 17-21 trails Houston by 7.5 games.

The first 2.5 games of the series were competitive.  Wade Miley and Mike Minor locked up in a pitchers’ duel in Thursday night’s opening game.  Minor did not have one of his best starts giving up three runs in five innings on seven hits, but it was good enough to keep the Rangers in the game.  Miley gave up a two run home run to Hunter Pence in his six innings of work.

Houston led 4-2 in the eighth inning.  Pence came to bat with two runners on base and hit another ball that would have gone into the seats.  Houston’s Josh Reddick however made an outstanding catch reaching over the right field wall for the ball.

The final score was 4-2 with Miley (3-2) getting the win, and Minor (3-3) the loss.  Rafael Osuna shut out the Rangers in the ninth inning to earn his ninth save.

Justin Verlander pitched a magnificent game Friday night.  He gave up one hit in seven shutout innings to improve his record to 6-1.  The Rangers mustered just one more hit in the ninth inning.  Both hits were singles.

Lance Lynn started for Texas and held the Astros to three runs on six hits over seven innings.  The final score was 3-0.  Lynn is 4-3 with the loss, and Osuna recorded his 10th save.

Saturday night, Gerritt Cole struck out 12 in six innings to earn the win, which evened his record at 4-4.  Despite Cole’s sparkling performance, the Rangers trailed just 2-1 going to the sixth inning.

Ranger manager Chris Woodward employed an “opener” to start the game.  Jesse Chavez pitched a sparkling first inning, retiring the three Astros he faced on 10 pitches.  Drew Smyly followed and held Houston to two runs over the next four innings, one of which was unearned.

Smyly flat ran out of gas in the sixth inning.  He was a strike away from retiring the side, but he threw ball four to former Ranger Robinson Chirinos to load the bases with walks and two outs.  Kyle Dowdy followed and served up a grand slam home run to put the game out of the Rangers’ reach.

The Rangers bullpen faltered giving up six runs on the night.  The only offensive answer the Rangers had was a three run home run from Ronald Guzman.  The final score was 11-4.  Smyly is 0-3 with the loss.

The Astros Sunday rout of Texas came in support of Corbin Lewis making his first Major League start.  Lewis, who played high school ball in the Houston area and played for Texas A&M, was limited to around 80 pitches.  He pitched into the sixth inning allowing two runs on three hits to go to 1-0.

George Springer hit a home run leading off Houston’s first inning.  In the second inning, Springer singled home a run, and then scored on Alex Bregman’s home run.  The Astros failed to score in the third inning, but posted two runs in the fourth inning, four runs in the fifth, and five runs in the sixth.

Adrian Sampson was the Ranger starting pitcher, and he was lit up for six runs on nine hits in 3-1/3rd innings.  Ariel Jurado and Brett Martin gave up the rest of Houston’s runs.

Earlier in the week, Sampson started on Tuesday against the Pirates, and his breaking ball was erratic.  Some he threw had almost no break at all.  Others broke sharply and a lot.  The bottom line was that very few of them went where he wanted them to go.

In the fourth and fifth innings, he hit a batter each of which scored, as the Pirates erased a 2-1 deficit.  They scored twice in both innings to take a 5-2 lead.

Pence had given the Rangers the early lead with a two run home run.  He doubled home two more runs in the seventh inning to pull the Rangers within a run at 5-4, but that was all the Ranger’ offense could muster, making 5-4 the final score.  Sampson fell to 0-2 with the loss, while the Pirates’ Michael Feliz is 2-0 with the win.  Felipe Vasquez zipped the Rangers in the ninth inning with two strikeouts and a fly out for his 10th save.

The Rangers were staring at a series sweep against the Bucs as they trailed 6-2 in the eighth inning last Wednesday.  Pence pinch hit and slugged a grand slam home run to tie the game.  Texas scored three more runs in the ninth inning to win 9-6.  The seven runs scored over the final two innings were all scored with two outs.

Areil Jurado (1-1) was the winning pitcher, and Chris Martin earned his first save by pitching a perfect three up, three down ninth inning.  Pittsburgh’s Tyler Lyons (1-1) was the losing pitcher.

The Astros go on the road for six games this week, starting with three in Detroit Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  The announced starting pitchers are Brad Peacock (3-2) on Monday, Wade Miley (3-2) on Tuesday, and Justin Verlander (6-1) on Wednesday.  All three have 6:10 PM(Central) start times.  The road trip concludes next weekend in Boston after an off day Thursday.

The Rangers are off Monday, and then finish the current road trip in Kansas City.  The Rangers’ announced starting pitchers are Shelby Miller (1-2) on Tuesday, Mike Minor (3-3) on Wednesday and Lance Lynn (4-3) on Thursday.  Game times are 7:15 PM (Central) on Tuesday and Wednesday and 1:15 PM (Central) on Thursday.

NOTABLE:

*     Hunter Pence is a solid candidate to win the American League Player of the Week.  He hit .368 with four home runs and 11 RBIs.

*     Elvis Andrus played in his 1,513th game Sunday to take over third place on the Rangers’ All-Time list.  He tied Jim Sundburg when he played Saturday.  Michael Young (1,823) and Rafael Palmeiro (1,573) are first and second.

*     The Rangers have lost the first game in 11 of their first 13 series this season.  The wins were in the two series with the Angels.

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