Rangers 9, Astros 1
- That was intense.
- Big picture-wise, this was just another game, one of 162. A game in mid-April, well before crunch time, before we start seriously looking at the standings and talking about playoff races.
- But this felt like a big game. Texas, going into Houston, in a season where the Rangers are looking to show that they are legit contenders for the first time in...well a while. Going up against the team they are looking to try to dethrone, a team that has had their number the past several years. And looking to take the rubber match after a solid victory in Game One and a sloppy loss in Game Two.
- So, yeah, as a Ranger fan, this felt like something other than a random April matchup.
- Through six innings it was a nail-biter, with neither team having much in the way of scoring opportunities. The only Ranger to get on base in that stretch was Jonah Heim, who did so once with a double, once with a walk. The Astros did a little better, but not much...they appeared positioned to threaten with runners on second and third and one out in the fifth, after Mauricio Dubon slapped a one out single to right field, and advanced sliding into second when Adolis Garcia threw to third way too late while also missing the cutoff man.
- A Rangers challenge, though, showed that Dubon came off the bag while Ezequiel Duran was holding the (initially too late) tag on him, and he was called out, turning second and third, one out into runner on third, two out. An Alex Bregman fly out then ended the inning.
- Then, in the top of the seventh, the Rangers had the sort of inning against the Astros that it seems like the Astros usually have against the Rangers. Nathaniel Lowe doubled to lead things off. Adolis Garcia hit a routine grounder to shortstop, but Jeremy Pena made a weirdly terribly throw to first base, resulting in Garcia being safe. Josh Jung, who had struck out twice earlier in the game, fell down in the count 1-2, laid off a couple of curve balls, fouled off a sinker, and then laced a curve into left field to load the bases.
- With the bases loaded, Jonah Heim saw five pitches and spit on all five. The first three were balls. Pitch four was on the corner. Pitch five was off the plate, and Heim trotted to first, his bases-loaded walk being responsible for the first run of the game.
- A Robbie Grossman single brought home a second run and chased Framber Valdez, with Hector Neris coming in to try to get out of a bases loaded, no out situation. And briefly, it looked like he might.
- Neris got Leody Taveras to pop out. With the righthander on the mound instead of the lefty Valdez, Bubba Thompson was lifted for a pinch hitter, though instead of going with Brad Miller, Bruce Bochy turned to Travis Jankowski. Given that Miller’s only role is to hit righthanded pitchers, the decision would not seem to bode well for Miller’s future with the team.
- Jankowski struck out on three pitches, and Neris then got up 0-2 on Marcus Semien. Pitch three was a splitter that Neris presumably was hoping would be in the dirt and Semien would chase. Instead, he left it up, and Semien took advantage of the mistake, parking it into the Crawford Boxes. 6-0, Rangers.
- After Houston put a run on the board in the bottom of the seventh, Texas padded the lead in the eighth. Lowe reached on an E3, Josh Jung doubled, Jonah Heim brought home a run on a sac fly, and then after a Robbie Grossman HBP, Leody Taveras doubled to left field to bring home two more runs.
- That may have been Leody’s first well struck ball since coming off the injured list. More of that, please, Leody.
- The Astros did put a scare in us in the seventh, it should be noted. Brock Burke, who threw a 1-2-3 sixth, gave up a double and a pair of walks to start the seventh and was lifted for Jonathan Hernandez. Hernandez struck out Martin Maldonado and Mauricio Dubon, got up 1-2 on Bregman, but then lost him, walking in a run. Will Smith came into the game to face Yordan Alvarez, and on a 2-2 count, got Alvarez to hit a slow roller that looked like it might go for an infield hit at first. Jung was able to snag it and tag third base for the force out, ending the inning and the threat.
- Andrew Heaney’s fastball topped out at 93.4 mph, averaging 91.4 mph. Brock Burke hit 95.7 mph. Jonathan Hernandez’s sinker maxed out at 97.6 mph. Will Smith touched 93.9 mph with his fastball. Josh Sborz reached 96.4 mph.
- Marcus Semien’s home run was 100.0 mph off the bat, and he also had a 105.2 mph groundout. Ezequiel Duran had a 107.9 mph groundout. Nathaniel Lowe had a 107.7 mph double and a 102.7 mph groundout. Leody Taveras had a 103.9 mph double. Jonah Heim had a 103.1 mph double. Robbie Grossman had a 101.4 mph single.
- The first place Texas Rangers head to Kansas City now. First place!