Unlikely stars spark Rangers in win over Astros

Alex Rios celebrates with Josh Wilson after scoring on a sacrifice fly by Donnie Murphy.

Jerome Miron/Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

ARLINGTON, Texas – The blueprint for victory for the Texas Rangers Sunday was an unexpected one.

It was no surprise that left-hander Martin Perez pitched well, just like he has since he joined the rotation last year.

But the odds of picking the other pieces needed for a 1-0 victory over Houston were about as good as picking the winning lottery numbers. That’s unless you had Robinson Chirinos throwing out a pair of baserunners trying to steal, a great play by Josh Wilson at shortstop and an RBI from Donnie Murphy as your keys for Sunday success for the Rangers.

That’s what it took for the Rangers to win the series and continue a stranglehold over Houston that hasn’t seen the Astros win a series against Texas since 2008. Not the expected path to a win but no one was complaining afterwards.

"The key for us is to make sure and try to keep them in position where they can be successful," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "You can see today they played the heck out of some defense. There were other guys we expected to be out there but they’ve stepped in and done a good job. You have to give them credit."

The Rangers were put in position to win a low-scoring game thanks to the pitching of Perez (2-0). The left-hander pitched eight innings and allowed five hits. For the second-consecutive start, he was helped by the double-play ball. He got five in his last start and four more Sunday, becoming the first starter to register at least four double plays in consecutive starts since Tommy John in 1984.

Perez struck out just two and walked three, but he was able to the outs when he needed them with the double play helping.

"That happens when you throw all your pitches down and you get a lot of ground balls," said Perez, who is now 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA vs. Houston. "If you can throw strikes with runners on base, you can get a win, you can get the outs. You have to make a pitch and trust your stuff."

He also trusted his defense. Chirinos helped Perez in the third by throwing out Jonathan Villar trying to steal second after he drew a one-out walk. Matt Dominguez then singled off Perez in the top of the fifth in a scoreless game. He also tried to steal second and was thrown out.

Wilson was the original starter at second base but moved to shortstop after Elvis Andrus was ejected in the bottom of the third by home-plate ump Alan Porter. He snared a liner off the bat of L.J. Hoes after Dominguez was caught stealing.

Murphy delivered the game’s lone run in the bottom of the sixth as he scored Wilson. Wilson and Shin-Soo Choo opened the inning with singles and Murphy hit a deep sacrifice fly to left-center. Murphy, who came into lineup in Andrus’ spot, now has four RBI as the Rangers look for offense anywhere they can get it.

"Coming off the bench a lot I’m used to that now," said Murphy. "It’s almost like I’m prepared to do it no matter what. It’s always nice when you don’t start the game to contribute like that, especially in a 1-0 win."