August 9, 2013

Rangers rally by feasting on Astros’ bullpen

Texas takes its 10th win in 11 games, 9-5, as Houston blows another save in a four-run Rangers eighth.

Jurickson Profar simply wanted to get on base and bring in the go-ahead run with the score tied and two outs in the eighth inning. A walk would get it done just as much as a base hit.

And Profar managed to win an eight-pitch at-bat against Astros reliever Wesley Wright. Profar had a 3-1 count, fouled off three straight fastballs and then took ball four down in the zone to drive in a run.

That go-ahead run started another forgettable night for the Astros’ bullpen. The Rangers scored six runs off Astros relievers to turn a deficit into a 9-5 victory Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

It took 3 hours, 58 minutes for the Rangers to win and stay tied with the A’s atop the American League West. Texas has won five straight and 10 of its last 11. The Rangers also improved to 8-2 against Houston this year.

“I wish it would’ve ended sooner,” manager Ron Washington admitted. “But with us in the lead.”

Despite the four-run victory, the game was hanging in the balance going into the eighth inning. In fact, the Rangers trailed 4-3, but the Astros’ bullpen showed why its now blown five of its last six save opportunities. Houston needed five pitchers to finish the inning.

Ian Kinsler started it off by drawing a walk, stealing second and scoring on a looping single to center by Adrian Beltre to tie the game at 4-4.

A.J. Pierzynski struck out and Mitch Moreland grounded out before the Rangers put together a two-out rally.

David Murphy, batting .224 on the season, was intentionally walked for the second time this season by Josh Fields, and then Joey Butler, starting his first game in the majors, worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases.

Butler had doubled in his previous two at-bats but said the nerves were still running high. Regardless, he knew it was a pivotal walk to keep the rally going.

“I was just trying to get a pitch to drive and be patient,” Butler said. “I just got one pitch to it [at 2-0], so I just tried to stay within myself and do what I could to help the team win.”

It set up things up for Profar, whose eight-pitch walk drew rave reviews in the clubhouse afterwards.

“Tremendous,” Washington said. “He just battled and battled and battled and lay off a pitch down in the zone.”

Leonys Martin was next and laced a two-run double to right that provided insurance runs.

The Rangers’ bullpen made that lead stand – barely.

Tanner Scheppers started the eighth, but couldn’t get through it. He issued a one-out walk, hit a batter and then loaded the bases with a two-out walk.

That brought Marc Krauss to the plate as the go-ahead run for the Astros, but Neal Cotts struck him out to end the threat.

But that close call didn’t matter in the end. Texas cushioned its lead with two more runs in the ninth. Kinsler scored on a groundout by Pierzynski, and Murphy had an RBI double.

Cotts closed out the game with a scoreless ninth and earned his first save of the season. Matt Garza (8-3) got the win.

Garza didn’t have his best command on the night, giving up multiple home runs for the first time since joining the Rangers. He gave up a solo homer to Jason Castro to start the second inning, and then gave up two runs in the fourth after the Rangers had grabbed a 2-1 lead.

But Garza managed to get through seven innings and kept the team in the game.

“Great team win,” Garza said. “Stayed long enough in there to let the boys come back and pick it up. Sometimes you give up four and get a win. It wasn’t my crispest outing, but I’ll take it.”

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