Alex Rios spoke confidently about his belief that the Texas Rangers were still bound for the playoffs before the game. He said it knowing the Rangers needed help to get there.
“We can’t focus on the big picture,” Rios said. “It’s no secret we need to win, but it’s still there. We haven’t changed our attitude.”
Rios backed up his words a few hours later, providing a much-needed spark to the reeling Rangers by hitting for the cycle and starring on a night the offense found its stride against the worst team in the majors.
Behind Rios’ four RBIs and Derek Holland’s shutout, the Rangers cruised to a 12-0 victory over the Houston Astros to keep their playoff hopes alive on Monday night at Rangers Ballpark.
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Texas pulled to within one game of the idle Cleveland Indians for the second wild card. They remain two games back of the Tampa Bay Rays for the top wild card spot.
“The most important thing is that we won tonight,” Rios said after his first career cycle. “That’s the attitude we’re going to take. This is what we have to do to finish the season.”
The Rangers also know they have to take advantage of this series against the lowly Astros. The Rangers have gone 15-2 against the Astros, matching the franchise record for most wins against an opponent in a single season.
“We have great success against them, so it’s a pretty good game for us to wake those bats up,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said.
The Rangers’ got it going early on against Astros right-hander Jordan Lyles.
Ian Kinsler and Andrus each singled to start the first inning and scored on a two-run double by Rios. The Rangers made it 3-0 in the second when Craig Gentry led off with a walk and scored on a double by Kinsler.
Texas pulled away with four runs in the third, an inning that began with an infield single by Rios and ended with a three-run double by Leonys Martin, who made the third out by trying to stretch it into a triple.
That was it for Lyles, who had his shortest start of the season at three innings, but the Rangers pounded the Astros’ relievers just as badly.
They scored twice more in the fourth on an RBI single by Andrus and a solo homer by Rios to take a 9-0 lead.
The homer by Rios snapped a six-game homerless drought by the Rangers at home. The Rangers didn’t score in the fifth but added three more in the sixth.
Rios had an RBI triple in the sixth to complete the seventh cycle in team history and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Adrian Beltre. Rios said he was thinking triple from the moment the ball left his bat, and the dugout erupted when he made it to third safely.
“You wish that in your career you could’ve done that,” manager Ron Washington said. “It worked out perfectly for him. From the bench, we were yelling, ‘Triple, triple, triple.’ He can run for a big man.”
Every Ranger in the lineup had a productive night by either scoring a run or driving in a run in a game that served as a confidence boost to the entire team. Mitch Moreland snapped an 0-for-14 skid with an infield single in the sixth while David Murphy had a hit and a run scored.
The offense was the story of the night, but Holland was just as important and maybe even more impressive in his second shutout of the season.
Holland found himself in only one jam all game. Trevor Crowe and Carlos Corporan each singled to start the third, but Holland got out of it to start a stretch in which he retired 21 of the next 25 batters to win for the first time since Aug. 4.
“I had a few rough outings, but I’m not going to let that affect me,” Holland said. “I got to stay strong mentally and keep working. That’s what I did. It’s what I’m looking for and hopefully can keep it going in the playoffs.”