June 17, 2012

Seven-run sixth inning lifts Rangers to sweep of Astros

Ian Kinsler's three-run triple sparks the outburst for the Rangers, who scored at least five runs in an inning in all three games.

ARLINGTON — Ian Kinsler wasn’t ready to say the Texas Rangers are back to their early season form when they were arguably the best team in baseball, but they are getting closer.

The Rangers, backed by another solid outing from their starter and another big offensive inning, pulled away for a 9-3 victory over the Houston Astros on Sunday afternoon at Rangers Ballpark.

Texas completed a three-game sweep of Houston, has won its past three series and six of its past seven games.

“I wouldn’t say we’re playing like we were at the beginning of the season, but we’re getting there,” Kinsler said. “We’re banged up right now. We’ve got a lot of injuries. We’re just waiting to get healthy and continue to try and win games.”

Kinsler put starter Colby Lewis and the Rangers in position for the victory when he came through in his second bases-loaded opportunity in the game. He popped up to strand three runners in the fourth, but had a shot at redemption in the sixth.

The Rangers trailed 1-0 with two outs and the bases loaded, and Kinsler smoked a bases-clearing triple to left-center field off Astros reliever Fernando Rodriguez.

That gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead, and sparked what became a seven-run inning. Michael Young had a one-run single on a play that the Rangers scored twice. Elvis Andrus, who was on first, scored on a fielder’s choice after Astros right fielder Brian Bogusevic made a lazy throw infrom the outfield.

“You always stay aware of the plate and react,” Andrus said. “I got a good jump and kept running hard. Sometimes I don’t even look at our third base coach, I just try to see what I can get. It was a weak throw and I kept going to home plate.”

Adrian Beltre followed with a two-run home run, sending his 11th of the season over the left-center wall.

The seven-run sixth was a major league-leading 15th time the Rangers have scored five or more runs in an inning, including the past three games against the Astros. While the Rangers will take the big innings, they would like to be more consistent on offense throughout the entire game. They were held scoreless the first four innings all three games against the Astros.

“Lately it’s been the big inning late in the game, and we don’t want to do that,” Beltre said. “We want to put some more pressure on the starting pitcher and score some early runs and give our pitching staff some run support.”

Lewis didn’t seem to mind the lack of run support early on. It was business as usual for the Rangers’ veteran, who worked out of jams and mixed his pitches effectively over seven innings.

The Astros took a 1-0 lead in the fifth on an RBI single by Matt Downs, but Lewis responded by retiring the next eight batters. When Lewis handed the game over to the bullpen, Texas had gained a comfortable 8-1 lead.

“Overall it was a good day,” said Lewis, who is 6-5 with a 3.00 ERA. “I was able to hang around and the offense put up the big number. I was real pumped up when Kins came through and got the bases-loaded triple.”

It was enough to send the Rangers on to another victory, but they know they aren’t all the way back yet. They are playing better than they were two weeks ago, but not as well as they were during an eight-game winning streak in mid-April.

“Right now, it’s one day at a time,” manager Ron Washington said. “If we rattle off 10, 11 wins out of 12, 13 games but right now, it’s a day at a time.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760

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