Texas Rangers relief pitcher Neal Cotts pitches during the eighth inning against the Houston Astros.
Troy Taormina/Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
HOUSTON – Any good feelings the Texas Rangers had after leaving Chicago with a two-game winning streak left when the Astros snatched the lead in the eight inning and didn’t look back as they took the 4-3 win at Minute Maid Park on Friday night.
The Rangers looked to be in control early, taking a 2-0 lead in the first inning off the hot bat of J.P. Arencibia as he knocked a two-run homer to left field, his seventh since the All-Star break, off Astros starter Brett Oberholtzer.
Texas’ lead held until the eighth inning, but that’s when things became unraveled quickly with reliever Neil Cotts giving up three runs on four hits, including a two-run home run to Astros right fielder Robbie Grossman. â¨
"It was a tough ballgame, we put up two runs in the first inning and we just couldn’t get anything else," manager Ron Washington said. "They fought for their at-bats, they beat us. They beat our best pitcher that we had in that situation, so you have to give them credit, they beat us."
Washington, when asked if he would put Cotts back out on the mound again in a similar situation, didn’t hesitate one bit in his confidence in the reliever.
"I’ll give the ball to Neil again in that situation," Washington said. "He just didn’t get it done."
Rangers starter Miles Mikolas gave up only one earned run on a Chris Carter home run in the fifth inning, but was forced to leave the game prior to the sixth due to throwing 105 pitches in the short outing, leaving the bullpen with the tough task of holding the slim lead.
"[Mikolas] could have been tougher, but he was able to make pitches when he had to, just didn’t have his command as well as he has in the past," Washington said. "He just didn’t have the pitch to put them away, and it cost him or he could have been in the sixth or seventh inning, but he was through in the fifth."
During the second inning, Washington visited Mikolas on the mound, concerned with the amount of pitches his starter was throwing, taking the time to stress the importance of making batters swing the bat by throwing strikes.
"This is the way you hurt yourself by putting people on the bag without them swinging the bat," Washington said he told Mikolas, "If those guys swing the bat and they get on the base, you live with that, but you don’t want to be giving up free passes, not when you’re trying to hold onto a two nothing lead."
Texas did show some resilience in the ninth inning against Houston closer Chad Qualls, scoring Adam Rosales on a pinch-hit RBI single by Mike Carp to cut the lead to one. Rougned Odor joined Carp on base with a single through the hole at shortstop before Dan Robertson hit into a double play to end the game.
The Rangers will play the second game of the three-game series against the Astros Saturday at Minute Maid Park with Yu Darvish set to face former Texas pitcher Scott Feldman on the mound.