Rangers use small ball to get to Astros’ Kazmir

Texas Rangers Ryan Strausborger connects for a bunt off a pitch from Houston Astros' Scott Kazmir in the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday Aug. 5, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. Strausborger reached first on a throwing error by Astros catcher Hank Conger.  

Tony Gutierrez/AP

ARLINGTON, Texas –€“ The Rangers knew they had a big challenge against Astros starter Scott Kazmir on Wednesday. So big, their plan was to go small against him.

The plan worked just enough for the Rangers to post a 4-3 win and sweep the three-game series with Astros.

With the speedy Delino DeShields and recent call-up Ryan Strausborger batting first and second, the Rangers wanted to put pressure on Kazmir and 6-2, 220-pound catcher Hank Conger immediately.

DeShields led off the game by reaching base on a tapper that Kazmir couldn’t pick up cleanly. Then Strausborger bunted to move DeShields over and Conger threw the ball away.

Two errors, two baserunners on with no outs. It was the start of a three-run inning for the Rangers, who rarely have such success against Kazmir.

"We wanted to play off of the speed at the top of the lineup," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Playing some small ball in that situation and in this heat, and making the starter run around a little bit… We knew we were going to have to make some things happen. We really hadn’t scored any runs off Kazmir this year, so that was in our plans."

Prince Fielder plated DeShields with a sacrifice fly, then Mitch Moreland knocked in Strausborger with a single.

In between, Adrian Beltre drew a walk and was able to score on an Elvis Andrus single to put the Rangers up 3-0. The lead grew to 4-0 when Chris Gimenez led off the bottom of the second with a homer.

Although there was still a lot of ballgame left, including some ninth-inning drama, the Astros couldn’t overcome the mistakes caused by the Rangers’ speed in the first inning.

"It all started with me," Kazmir said. "I didn’t set the tone well. It was an easy play right in front of me and I just rushed it. I didn’t get in front of the ball and it cost us. A couple errors early on against a team like that gave them momentum. It’s tough."

Kazmir doesn’t have a lot of experience pitching from behind against the Rangers. He came into the game with an 11-5 career record against Texas, including three wins this season in which scored a total of three runs off him.

Kazmir eventually left Wednesday’s game after five and two-thirds innings and 100 pitches. Only one of the four runs scored off him, Gimenez’s homer, was earned.

The home run proved to be the difference, but it was the Rangers’ speed that set the stage.

"I think the whole game starts in the first inning," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We just didn’t get into the game."

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire


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