A 1-0 game isn’t too common in baseball and hasn’t been over the years for the Texas Rangers, a franchise long known for its power hitters and home-park jet stream.
That perception is beginning to change. Look no further than this past weekend series against the Houston Astros.
The Rangers won a pair of 1-0 games in the series, the first time that has happened in franchise history. The latest came Sunday afternoon behind a dominant outing by Martin Perez, a shutdown ninth inning by Alexi Ogando and a sacrifice fly by Donnie Murphy producing the game’s only run in a 2-hour, 15-minute affair.
The Rangers pulled out a 1-0 victory in the 12th inning during the series opener on Friday. It’s quite an accomplishment for the Rangers’ pitching staff, even though the Astros were the worst team in the majors last season and remain in rebuilding mode.
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“If we have to play in these types of ballgames and my pitchers continue to get strong because of these types of ballgames, I’ll take them all the time,” manager Ron Washington said.
“Our young kids are starting to get a little better and starting to get out there and fight a lot harder in certain situations.”
As usual, Perez kept his cool and composure when he put runners on base. The Astros had base runners reach in seven of eight innings against Perez, but none of them reached second base.
Perez got out of every potential jam, either getting a double-play grounder or help from catcher Robinson Chirinos’ arm.
Perez, who induced five double-play balls in his previous start, ended the second and eighth innings with double plays. He also got double-play grounders in the sixth and seventh innings, becoming the first pitcher in club history with consecutive games to induce at least four ground-ball double plays.
“You’ve got to throw strikes with runners on base and trust your stuff,” Perez said. “Just concentrate on quick outs.”
Perez did just that by working quickly, scattering five hits with three walks and two strikeouts in his best outing of the young season. He also benefited from a couple of nice throws by Chirinos, who caught two base stealers, in the third and fifth innings.
Chirinos has thrown out all four potential base stealers he’s seen so far.
“I went down to Venezuela [for winter ball] to work on my defense,” Chirinos said. “That’s something I’ve worked on a lot.”
For as good as Perez and the defense were throughout the game, the offense struggled to get anything going against Astros starter Brett Oberholtzer.
Oberholtzer had retired 11 straight before allowing a leadoff single to Josh Wilson, the Rangers’ No. 9 batter, in the sixth inning. Wilson moved to third on a single by Shin-Soo Choo and then scored on a sacrifice fly to deep left-center field by Murphy.
Murphy wasn’t in the starting lineup, but entered after shortstop Elvis Andrus was ejected by home-plate umpire Alan Porter for arguing a called third strike to end the third inning.
“It’s always nice when you don’t start the game and contribute like that, especially in a 1-0 win,” Murphy said.
The one run was enough for Perez and Ogando. Perez lobbied for the ninth and a complete game shutout, but Washington wasn’t going to send the 23-year-old out again with 107 pitches.
So that task fell to Ogando instead of usual closer Joakim Soria, who pitched in the previous two games. Ogando worked a 1-2-3 ninth to keep the shutout intact and earned his first save since Aug. 4, 2012.
“It’s exciting, it’s a big part of the game,” Ogando said of pitching the ninth. “I like to compete first of all, and if they put me in that position, I like it.”