For all their misfortune through the first month of the season, the Texas Rangers have remained a proudly resilient bunch.
Even in defeat, the Rangers have often fought their way back only to have something go wrong in the end.
On Monday night at Minute Maid Park against the Houston Astros, the hottest team in baseball, the breaks and plays finally went Texas’ way.
The Rangers (9-16) snapped the Astros’ MLB-best 10-game win streak with a come-from-behind 2-1 win in which all the elements that have failed them finally were up to the task.
“I call it grit more than resilience,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.
Texas scored a run in the eighth and a run in the ninth and Neftali Feliz came on to earn his third save with a perfect ninth to cap the victory in front of 17,597 in attendance.
The Astros (18-8), who have the best record in the American League, took a 1-0 lead with a run in the first against starter Ross Detwiler. Jose Altuve led off with a walk and moved to second on a wild pitch, moved to third with a stolen base and scored on a sacrifice fly to right.
Meanwhile, Astros starter Dallas Keuchel was having his way with Rangers hitters. He stuck out seven of the first 10 batters he faced, including six consecutive hitters in the second and third innings. He finished with eight strikeouts and left after the eighth inning when the Rangers finally tied it when Delino DeShields scored on Jake Smolinski’s one-out single to center.
DeShields entered the game in the fourth after Leonys Martin left with a wrist injury after diving for a ball in center. Martin is day-to-day after X-rays showed it was only a bruise.
Adrian Beltre led off the ninth with a double and moved to third on Kyle Blanks’ single to left. After Rougned Odor, in as a pinch-hitter for Adam Rosales, struck out on three pitches, Robinson Chirinos drove in Beltre with a sacrifice fly to center. Jake Marisnick’s throw home was wide left, allowing Beltre to score easily.
“We were going to take a chance there,” Banister said. “We were yelling to send him all the way.”
Detwiler, who struggled mightily in his first three starts, followed his solid last outing with a even more impressive start. He held the Astros to one run on four hits in seven innings before making way for Keone Kela (in a perfect eighth) and Feliz.
“This is a ballclub that has won 10 in a row and swinging the bat very well,” Banister said. “I can’t say enough about [Detwiler] … everybody kind of had him out of the picture. You want to talk about grit, there’s grit for you. It showed up tonight. Testament to the things he’s been working hard on. He found that changeup tonight.”
He needed to be with the way Keuchel was pitching. Through the first seven innings the Rangers had their leadoff man on four times, including three times with a double. But Keuchel was able to work his way out of it each time.
“It’s not how we draw it up. We got to be better in those situations. We made it challenging on ourselves,” Banister said. “He makes it tough on you, he had all three pitches working tonight,” Banister said. “We stayed with it and we battled and got a run off of him late.”
Detwiler, who did not figure in the decision, kept his fastball down in the zone for much of the game.
“It’s a huge win for the team,” Detwiler said. “Obviously, everybody knew, everybody was talking about the 10-game winning streak so it’s really nice to be able to put an end to that and put a good game together. Defense played incredible and we hope Leo is OK.”