ARLINGTON, Texas – Sure the Texas Rangers have dominated the season series against the Houston Astros, winning 14 of the 16 meetings so far.
But at least the games have been interesting.
Wednesday’s night’s 5-4 Texas win just added to that.
A season series that has already included two near no-hitters, a 16-run game and the Astros having the best record in baseball at one time, added another strange chapter under a full moon.
The Rangers survived a wild eighth inning from Tanner Scheppers that included two hit batters, two wild pitches and two Astros runs. All that did was tie the game at 4 and set the stage for Elvis Andrus to deliver a walk off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth.
The Andrus sac fly capped a night that also included a 412-foot homer from Craig Gentry, a suicide squeeze from Andrus on a 3-0 count and Houston rookie Max Stassi collecting his first big-league RBI by getting hit by a Scheppers pitch and going to the hospital.
But by the time Andrus got one of the strangest walk-off receptions of all time after getting dragged across the infield, the Rangers were winners for the 13th time in the last 16 games. More importantly, their lead of Oakland is now 2 ½ games, the largest it’s been since May 31.
That’s all that mattered after the team’s fifth walk-off win of the season.
“It’s definitely a good team win for us,” said Gentry, who scored a season high three runs. “That’s how it’s going to be. You’re not going to go out there and put 10-plus runs together every game. Sometimes you’re going to have to scratch and claw and come up with wins like tonight. We had a lead, gave it back, battled back and got the win. That’s the most important thing. We picked each other up.”
It didn’t look like anyone was going to have to get picked up early. The Rangers took a 2-0 lead in the third inning after Gentry hit his fourth career homer to lead off the bottom of the third and Ian Kinsler later scored on one of two Houston errors.
That looked to be all Derek Holland would need as he had a 3-1 lead going into the seventh. But Holland was hit on his left forearm by a liner to open the inning. Holland was fine physically but said adrenalin took over and he couldn’t throw strikes. He walked the next two batters and was pulled for Joakim Soria. Still the Rangers got out of that inning with a 3-2 lead thanks to a double play.
The Rangers got another run in the bottom of the seventh on the Andrus squeeze but Scheppers couldn’t make that stand up in the eighth. With two outs and no one on, he allowed a single, walked a batter, threw two wild pitches and then allowed a single to Chris Carter to make it a one-run game. He followed that by hitting Matt Dominguez and Stassi, with Stassi going to the hospital after his game-tying RBI.
But the Rangers were able to make lemons out of that lemonade in the bottom of the ninth after Chia-Jen Lo walked two and allowed a single to load the bases for Andrus. Andrus wasn’t sure he hit the ball far enough to score pinch-runner Adam Rosales but Robbie Grossman’s throw home wasn’t close.
“As soon as I hit the ball I was a little concerned,” said Andrus. “We got the sweep and we’re still in first place. You’re not going to see the same plays every day. It’s something different. For us to be able to play hard every inning, that was huge for us.”