If you're going to snap a five-game losing streak, why not do it with some flash?
Some rookie flash, to boot. The Rangers stopped the skid with a 6-5 extra-inning win against the Astros Saturday afternoon and checked off a slew of boxes in the process.
First and foremost, Texas won for the first time in a week. It's the Rangers first one-run win. They won in comeback fashion for the first time this season. And a grand comeback it was. They scored three in the eighth to tie the Astros as Joey Gallo knocked a two-run homer off the right-field foul pole and Ronald Guzman tied the game with his first big league homer over the right-field wall. It came in a flash and knocked the wind out of most of the 40,679 fans at Minute Maid Park.
But the game hadn't been won yet. That came when Guzman drove in the go-ahead run in Jurickson Profar with an infield single off the glove of pitcher Will Harris.
Chris Martin and Alex Claudio combined for the final three outs to secure the win.
"We needed it. We’ve been struggling. We haven’t played well," said Adrian Beltre, who homered in the sixth. "We just beat a really good team, a really good pitching staff. It was huge and hopefully it will get us out of the funk and we’ll start doing this more often."
Thoughts from the Rangers' slide-busting win:
1. Kiner-Falefa — Nobody is having more fun than rookie second baseman Isiah Kiner-Falefa. He and Guzman collected their first major league hits on Friday night and followed that with their first major league homers on Saturday. Elias Sports Bureau says the last time the Rangers had two players hit their first home run in the same game was July 24, 2003, when Laynce Nix and Jason Jones did it against the Angels.
Kiner-Falefa's solo homer put Texas on the board in the fifth. His first impressions of the big leagues after two starts in Houston?
"It's a good time out there. The music is loud, the fans are loud. It just gets me going," said Kiner-Falefa, who is 2 for 8 in the two games. "The energy is so unbelievable. That’s why it’s the major leagues. It’s awesome."
Kiner-Falefa's parents flew in from Honolulu when he was called up and drove down to Houston from Arlington for the weekend series. Kiner-Falefa and Guzman have looked extremely poised, but the nerves are there. They're always there, no matter what level you're playing.
"I’m nervous for every single game, but I think that’s what makes baseball a game. You can either go into a shell or get out of your comfort zone," he said, gently tapping the brakes on thinking too far ahead. "We’re just doing what we know how to do. Five or six years in the minor leagues prepares you. We’ll just see what happens. There's a purpose and there’s a process. I'm enjoying it, soaking it all up. Just go with [the energy]."
2. Tony the Tiger — Tony Barnette looked like his old self with two scoreless innings on Saturday. He helped bridge the game from starter Mike Minor to the back end the of the bullpen and looked like the Barnette who was so reliable for the Rangers in 2016. It was only his second outing since rejoining the roster from the disabled list and welcome relief to the bullpen.
3. Lincecum's bullpen — Tim Lincecum threw a bullpen session before Friday's game and will throw again on Sunday. Lincecum has been on the disabled list with a blister on his right middle finger. Pitching coach Doug Brocail was pleased with the progress Lincecum showed in Friday's session.
"We are starting to see some velocity. He is getting to his release really well and getting through the ball," Brocail said. "He was happy with it. It was nice to see him smile." Lincecum, if cleared, could make a rehab appearance at Double-A Frisco this week. He hasn't pitched in a game since being signed on March 7.
4. Beltre's homer — Adrian Beltre's first homer of 2018 came in the sixth inning Saturday to pull Texas to within 5-2. It's home run No. 463 for Beltre, who tied Miguel Cabrera for 35th all-time. He had been tied for 36th with Jose Canseco and Adam Dunn. It was Beltre's 1,118th extra-base hit, which puts him one shy of tying George Brett for 17th all-time. He's four shy of tying Manny Ramirez for 16th all-time.
4B. Beltre HOF bonus — Of the 17 players ahead of Beltre on the all-time extra-base hits leader board, six are not in the Hall of Fame. How in the world, you wonder? Barry Bonds (No. 2 with 1,440) is caught in the PED netherworld. Alex Rodriguez (No. 6 with 1,275), who isn't eligible until December 2021, is likely to be caught in the same trap. No. 7 Albert Pujols (1,255) is a lock five years after he retires. David Ortiz, who is tied with Ken Griffey Jr. and Rafael Palmeiro for eighth all-time with 1,192, isn't eligible until December 2022. Rangers fans are probably aware of Palmeiro's PED-plagued history. Lastly, Ramirez (No. 16 with 1,122) received 24 percent of the vote in December, his first year on the ballot. That's probably not a good sign for his chances. He has multiple failed PED tests in his past and wasn't exactly thought of as a complete player anyway.
5. Nomar tomorrow? — Right-fielder Nomar Mazara did not play Saturday because of a stiff neck. He felt it tighten during his third at-bat on Friday. He still had noticeable stiffness after Saturday's game. When asked when he'd be available, Mazara joked: "A month and a half." Haha.
He hopes to be available for Sunday's game, but unless his neck is 100 percent loose, it's likely he'll be relegated to the bench, if available at all. He received treatment on Saturday and will get more Sunday afternoon.