ARLINGTON, Texas – You didn’t have to look hard at Rangers Ballpark Tuesday night to know what’s at stake for the Texas Rangers with less than a week to go in the regular season.
Before the game, both the Cleveland and Tampa Bay games were being shown on the video board in right field.
Once the game began, the Rangers were also aware of the happenings with Cleveland and Tampa Bay all while trying to beat the Houston Astros for the 16th time this season.
While the Rangers had no control in the eventual wins by the Indians and Rays, they did take care of Houston 3-2 behind solid work from their bullpen and the first homer by Adrian Beltre in nearly a month.
The Rangers remain one game behind Cleveland for the No. 2 wild-card spot and two games behind the Rays. While the Rangers have to depend on help to get to the postseason for a fourth-straight game, the focus Tuesday night was Houston.
“I wasn’t interested in that (the other two games),” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “I was just interested in just constantly getting outs until we got 27 of them.”
The Rangers took an interesting path to get to the 27th out. Yu Darvish allowed just two runs in 5 1/3 innings but needed 101 pitches to get his first out of the sixth. That led Washington to go to his winning pieces early in a 2-2 game and the foursome of Neal Cotts, Tanner Scheppers, Jason Frasor and Joe Nathan didn’t disappoint.
They combined for 3 2/3 innings of two-hit ball and totaled six strikeouts. While Frasor got just one out, it was a big one in the eighth inning as he got Carlos Corporan to fly out with the tying run at third base.
The bullpen was able to work with a lead thanks to Beltre’s first homer since Aug. 28. His one-out shot to left off Brad Peacock in the sixth inning gave the Rangers the only run the relief staff would need.
Beltre, who has 11 go-ahead homers this season, was glad to deliver in a clutch situation even though he was met by teammates who were pretending to be asleep in the dugout.
“I can’t blame them,” Beltre said. “It’s been a long time. Hopefully that will be the beginning of a couple this week, not because I hit a homer but really it was a good spot to hit it. It gave our ballclub the lead and that’s what I want.”
The Rangers were to give Darvish a brief lead in the fifth inning. Houston jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first before the Rangers tied the game in the fourth and took a 2-1 lead in the fifth on an RBI single by Ian Kinsler. That lead didn’t last long as Matt Dominguez homered to lead off the sixth inning.
One-out later Darvish was pulled after his fourth walk. He struck out nine in his 5 1/3 innings. While he hasn’t pitched at least six innings in consecutive starts for the first time this year, Darvish was only concerned with the bottom line.
“I was just trying to survive each inning and trying to do the best I can in that situation,” Darvish said. “The most important thing right now is to win the game and I was able to keep us in the game.”
He did that and Washington leaned on Cotts for an inning, Scheppers for 1 1/3 and Nathan for his 41st save.
While Washington wouldn’t say those would be the only pieces of the bullpen the Rangers would go to in an attempt to make the postseason, the relievers made it clear they were ready for whatever it takes.
“We’ve stuck with our guns throughout the year,” said Nathan, who struck out two in his perfect ninth. “I think it may change a little bit. I think you saw tonight where Schepp came in the seventh and was asked to get some big outs in the seventh and try and get through the eighth. Like I’ve talked about with this pen it’s really nice to be deep.”