HOUSTON — As the Rangers mind their loose ends in advance of the postseason, small victories take on greater significance with the American League West title all but clinched.
On Monday night, the Rangers parlayed three strong performances from a trio of vital relief pitchers into a 4-3, 12-inning victory over the fading Astros.
Before left-hander Jake Diekman recorded his fourth save with a perfect 12th inning, right-handers Matt Bush and Keone Kela combined to work 3 2/3 scoreless innings to help Texas (86-59) overcome the fifth blown save from closer Sam Dyson.
Diekman had allowed eight consecutive batters to reach base during one recent four-game stretch. Kela was charged with a blown save on Saturday against the Angels, allowing a season-high four hits and three runs. Bush is just 1-for-4 in save opportunities. All three stepped forward when the Rangers needed them on Monday, and collectively Bush, Kela and Diekman are key cogs in Texas' bullpen.
“I think it's huge for them,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “Obviously they've had some minor challenges. For them to show up big for us … that's what we've seen in the past from these guys, that's what we're going to need to see from them going forward.”
Right-hander A.J. Griffin (7-4, 4.92 ERA) will start for Texas on Tuesday night. He has won two previous starts against the Astros this season, posting a 3.86 ERA over 11 2/3 innings. Griffin is 5-0 with a 4.54 ERA in six career starts against Houston, including a pair of victories at Minute Maid Park. His seventh start against the Astros will tie the Angels and Mariners for the most against one team in his career.
The Astros (75-69), meanwhile, continue to search for answers against their in-state rivals. Houston fell to 3-14 against Texas this season and has dropped 22 of the last 27 meetings between the clubs dating back to Aug. 3, 2015. The Rangers improved to a remarkable 32-10 in one-run games on Monday night, thus their success in close contests with Houston isn't much of a shock. Of the 17 games played between the clubs this season, 13 have been decided by two runs or less.
“They have finished the games,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “We have battled them. These are small margins and small increments that have not gone our way. I don't know what to say. They have beat us in close games. They have beat us in blowouts. We have beat them a few times along the way. It's baseball, it happens. We have to find a way to beat them tomorrow.”
Right-hander Brad Peacock (0-0, 3.38 ERA) will make his fifth career start against the Rangers as the Astros attempt to even the series. Peacock is 1-3 with a 3.76 ERA over five games against Texas. He'll be facing the Rangers for the first time in 2016.
Peacock is filling the rotation void left by left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who is sidelined by left shoulder inflammation.