Texas Rangers' Elvis Andrus front, and Rougned Odor, rear, celebrate a two-run home run by Odor that scored Andrus against the Houston Astros during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Arlington, Texas.
ARLINGTON, Texas – Style points are normally reserved for college football teams looking to increase their playoff stock.
But if they existed in baseball, the Texas Rangers would have scored some Wednesday night against the Houston Astros and their ace Dallas Keuchel.
One night after moving into first place for the first time all season, the Rangers hung the wrong kind of career night on Keuchel as they pounded the Astros 14-3.
The win was the sixth straight for the Rangers over Houston and none have come in a more impressive fashion. And while the demolition of Keuchel was the highlight, there were plenty of others like a season-high five homers hit for Texas. That included two from Prince Fielder and one from Bobby Wilson. And then there was the solid pitching by Texas left-hander Martin Perez.
But it was what a team that struggles to hit against good left-handers did to Keuchel that was mesmerizing.
"You saw some big hitters on a mission," Texas manager Jeff Banister said. "I think it goes back to having (Mike) Napoli in the lineup against a left-hander and how it stretches our lineup out. We talked about the big man in the middle (Fielder) and how he was close. He wasn’t close tonight, he was a man on a mission, getting out front and showing what he can be in that batter’s box for us."
Keuchel, who came into the game sporting a 2.22 ERA, was lucky to make it out of the first inning. Texas tagged him for six runs in that frame with Napoli crushing a three-run home run and Rougned Odor adding a two-run shot.
Maybe Keuchel was actually unlucky in making it out of the first as the Rangers just kept hitting him. Fielder’s solo homer to lead off the third was the third served up by Keuchel, which matched his career high. Two innings later the Rangers finished him off with two more runs. He left after 4 2/3 innings having allowed a career high nine earned runs and a new ERA of 2.56.
Fielder added more insurance on a five-RBI night with a three-run homer in the sixth inning. It was his second two-homer game of the season and continued a torrid series in which he’s hit three home runs and had eight RBI.
"We were just trying to get good pitches to hit," Fielder said. "Keuchel’s tough. He doesn’t make many mistakes as you’ve seen all year. When you get one you can’t miss it and fortunately enough tonight we were able to not miss them."
The Wednesday whipping pushed the Texas lead in the West to 1 Â½ games in a series in which they continue to make all the right moves. Not only did the decision to start Napoli in left pay off at the plate, Napoli also had an outfield assist in the third inning.
The offense made the night much easier for Perez, not that he needed it. He went seven solid innings, giving up nine hits but just one run. Perez had allowed at least three runs in each of his last six starts, but he snapped that run.
The six-run first allowed Perez to focus on the Astros. He came into the game having allowed at least three runs in each of his last six starts. He didn’t pitch like that Wednesday.
"I threw strikes and got ahead of hitters," Perez said. "I just felt comfortable out there. We’re just living in the moment and doing what we need do right. We’re in first place, but we’ve got to keep fighting and don’t give a chance to any of the teams behind us. We’ve got to win every day."