As the Houston Astros continue their slow, downward spiral in the final month of the regular season; the Texas Rangers continue pick up the slack en route to a 4 1/2 game lead in the American League West after Friday’s 6-3 win at Minute Maid Park.
With just two games left between the two teams from Texas vying for the division crown, the Rangers are well in the driver’s seat, certainly controlling their own destiny for their playoff placement.
Despite the large lead, Rangers manager Jeff Banister isn’t planning to let off the gas until the end of the route.
"There’s no exhale," manager Jeff Banister said. "We’re not going to look up until it’s done. This is a mission. We’re looking for an accomplishment to get to where we want to go. So you don’t relax, you still play with that urgency."
With the win, the Rangers pick up their eighth-straight win over the Astros while improving to 16-7 in September. Houston, meanwhile, dropped to 7-15 in the month.
"We have to find a way to do better," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Our guys are working, they are trying and prepared and doing everything they can, it’s just that the results are not there for us right now, and it has piled up for us."
In Friday’s game, the Rangers started strong, getting to Houston starter Scott Kazmir early, forcing the pitcher out of the game in the fourth inning after allowing 10 hits and six runs.
"To do what we did there early, to put some runs on the board, kind of put some pressure on them, but also continue to put some runs on in the subsequent innings, we felt good about it," Banister said. "The top of the lineup really showed up big for us tonight."
Shin-Soo Choo led the offensive onslaught as he gathered three hits, including an RBI single in the second inning along with a two-run homer in the fourth.
"I play eight years in the big leagues and I don’t have any experience with first place late in the season," Choo said. "So I really enjoyed it and then it makes me (have a) lot of energy."
Texas starter Yovani Gallardo allowed eight hits, giving up two runs, but lasted only 4 2/3 innings after tossing 87 pitches. Ross Ohlendorf pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings to pick up the win. Despite the Astros gaining 11 hits on the night, the Rangers’ pitching and defense stranded 11 Houston batters on base.
Overall, despite the drama unfolding for in the race for first in the AL West, Banister — who grew up in the Houston area — admitted he is enjoying the ride as the two Texas teams build a new rivalry fighting for a division crown.
"As a kid who grew up in this city, I’m just as proud of them as I am as us really just for the fact that I’d rather it be us two fighting it out," Banister said. "I’m still a fan, too you know deep down."