No one wearing a Texas Rangers uniform has said that September is going to be easy, though just about everything suggests that they will be able to coast to a second straight American League West crown.
Entering Friday, their first game of the new month, just more than half of the Rangers’ final 28 games were at Globe Life Park.
Four of their six remaining opponents have a losing record. Two of them are in last place, and the other two are next to last.
The Rangers had only 10 games remaining against two teams with a winning record, but six of those were against a Houston Astros team the Rangers have had their way with the past two seasons.
They were having their way with the Astros again for six innings Friday, and ultimately beat Houston for the 12th time in 14 games this season.
No one in a Rangers uniform said September was going to be easy.
They beat the second-place Astros 10-8, though it ended up not being easy at all as the Rangers had to hold on after twice leading by seven runs.
But they did hang on for their sixth straight victory and now lead the AL West by 9 1/2 games.
Was it pretty? No, but we got the job done.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister
“It was just one of those games where, look, both teams are fighting and that’s a young group over there and they’re going to continue to fight,” manager Jeff Banister said. “Was it pretty? No, but we got the job done.”
The Rangers scored seven times in the fourth inning as Carlos Beltran, Rougned Odor and Jonathan Lucroy connected for home runs to break open a 2-2 game. Each run was needed as the Astros stormed back in the seventh and eighth innings and brought the potential go-ahead run to the plate in the eighth.
Sam Dyson, though, cooled off Houston in the ninth, retiring MVP candidate Jose Altuve on the first pitch of the inning en route to a perfect frame and his 31st save.
Carlos Gomez reached in his first three plate appearances against the team that released him last month and scored each time.
A.J. Griffin allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings, but the Rangers had to burn through their key bullpen pieces as the Astros trimmed a 10-3 deficit to 10-6 in the seventh inning and to 10-8 in the eighth.
Rookie Alex Bregman, who hit one of two solo homers off Griffin and had a two-run triple in the seventh, batted as the potential go-ahead run in the eighth but popped out to Odor in shallow right field.
Odor called off right fielder Nomar Mazara, who dropped an Altuve popup in the Astros’ three-run seventh. Until that inning, the Rangers had played a clean game and the Astros had been the team that struggled to do things right.
They scored twice in the first against Griffin (7-3), but a Bregman throwing error in the second allowed two runs to score on an Andrus grounder.
Gomez opened the fourth with a walk against Doug Fister (12-10) and was at second as Mitch Moreland followed with as single. Andrus was next, and he drove a double to left field that gave the Rangers their first lead at 3-2.
It was a situation where Andrus has bunted in the past, but he was allowed to swing away from the No. 9 spot in the order.
“He’s come up with huge hits for us all year long,” Banister said. “It was early enough, so go ahead and continue to swing the bat.”
Mazara delivered a sacrifice fly for a 4-2 lead, and Beltran followed two batters later with a two-run shot to center field. After Adrian Beltre walked, Odor connected for his third homer in four games for an 8-2 lead and to chase Fister.
Elvis hit that ball, and as soon as somebody hits the ball good everybody follows. That’s how we play.
Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor
“Elvis hit that ball, and as soon as somebody hits the ball good everybody follows,” Odor said. “That’s how we play.”
Lucroy greeted reliever Michael Feliz with a shot just over the left-field wall as the Rangers hit back-to-back homers for the eighth time this season.
The Rangers have scored 32 runs in the past three games.
“I like our approach against a starter,” Banister said. “When we get a guy down, they continue to try to stay through they middle and they put good swings on him.”
The Rangers added a run in the fifth as Beltran took a bases-loaded walk for a 10-3 lead that seemed perfectly safe against a team the Rangers have owned the past two seasons (25-8).
No one in a Rangers uniform said that September, or beating the Astros, was going to be easy.
“We’ve still got another month, man,” Andrus said. “As bad as it’s going to sound, you don’t want to smell it yet. You want to keep pushing and keep creating space. That’s our main thing right now.
“We’ve been through this. We know what can happen in a week or two weeks. We’re doing a really good job of just staying on our toes, playing hard every single inning and trying to win every game.”
Jeff Wilson: 817-390-7760, @JeffWilson_FWST
Rangers vs. Astros
3:05 p.m. today, FSSW, FS1