It all starts with Leonys Martin and Elvis Andrus.
When the top two batters are getting on base and wreaking havoc on the base paths, the Texas Rangers are at their best offensively.
Look no further than Monday night when Martin and Andrus sparked the Rangers’ to the biggest inning in the big leagues this year — an 11-run third — en route to a 16-5 shellacking of the Houston Astros.
“When they’re going, we’re at our best,” manager Ron Washington said. “It works when those two guys are going.”
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Before they got going what became the 11-run third, Martin and Andrus teamed up for a two-run first.
Martin led off with an infield single, moved to third on a perfectly timed hit-and-run on Andrus’ single through a vacated hole at second, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ian Kinsler.
Andrus went to third on Kinsler’s sac fly, too. Adrian Beltre drew an intentional walk, and then A.J. Pierzynski struck out swinging. But Beltre broke for second on the third strike and avoided a tag.
Andrus, meanwhile, broke for home and stole it for the third time in his career. It marked just the 29th steal of home in Rangers history.
The Astros pulled to within 2-1 in the second against Matt Garza, but the Rangers quickly put the game out of reach in the third.
They scored 11 runs in an inning that had leadoff man Martin reach on a bunt single and a total of 15 batters come to the plate, every starter score, and with the help of only one extra-base hit.
After Martin bunted his way on, Andrus singled. Both advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Kinsler, and nine batters followed before the Astros recorded the second out.
“Me and Leonys set the table pretty well today,” Andrus said. “We make things easier for the rest of the lineup when we do that.”
It certainly did.
Pierzynski had a two-run single, and Mitch Moreland had a two-run double to put the Rangers ahead 6-1. That, it seemed, put the game away. The Rangers are 46-3 this season when scoring at least five runs in a game.
But the Astros showed why they’re on pace for a third straight 100-loss season. They made head-scratching errors that led to more runs – six unearned, to be exact – for the Rangers in what became their biggest inning since they broke loose for 11 runs in the fifth inning on Sept. 26, 2009, against Tampa Bay in an eventual 15-3 win.
With the bases loaded, reliever Wade LeBlanc got David Murphy to roll into what could have been an inning-ending double play. But Astros shortstop Jonathan Villar dropped the flip from second baseman Jose Altuve that resulted in no outs and another Rangers run.
Two batters later, Houston third baseman Matt Dominguez bobbled a routine grounder by Andrus that produced another run. Kinsler followed with a two-run single to left before Beltre drove in a run on a groundout for the second out of the inning.
Pierzynski’s bloop single to left scored Kinsler, though, and all nine starters scored in the inning despite the one extra-base hit in the frame.
“That’s the way we’re constructed right now and we’re going to take advantage of what’s there,” Washington said. “That’s the way I love to play, and this is the way they love to play.”
The Rangers extended their lead to 14-1 on an RBI single by Martin in the fourth. Martin drove in the 15th run in the sixth on a groundout, and Pierzynski made it the team’s season-high in runs with a solo shot in the seventh.
“It was fun to be on the right side of that,” Pierzynski said. “We needed that.”
Garza cruised into the seventh inning by holding the Astros to only a run, but he was charged with all four runs Houston scored that inning. Garza gave up an RBI single to L.J. Hoes and a two-run double to Robbie Grossman before being pulled.
Robbie Ross entered and allowed Garza’s fifth run to score on a double by Brett Wallace.
Garza has allowed four or more runs for the fourth consecutive start, and now has a 5.60 ERA in August.
“It’s not the way you want to end it, but we were blessed we scored,” Garza said.