Adrian Sampson looked like a different pitcher Saturday night.
The Texas Rangers’ right-hander made his second start against the Houston Astros and it went way better than his first six days prior.
Although Sampson only went 4 1/3 innings — a 1/3 longer than his first start April 14 against Oakland — he left with a four-run as the Rangers evened the series with a 9-4 win at Globe Life Park.
Sampson only mistake was a 93 mph sinker away that Max Stassi pushed just over the right-field wall and Shin-Soo Choo’s glove for an opposite-field, two-run homer. Sampson threw only 62 pitches — 16 fewer than he did against the Athletics — and forced six groundouts.
Meanwhile, it was the Astros’ Gerrit Cole getting roughed up. The Rangers scored five runs in the first. The first four Texas batters reached, including Choo’s lead-off single and consecutive walks from Elvis Andrus and Nomar Mazara. With one out, singles from Asdrubal Cabrera and Logan Forsythe made it 4-0. An error by shortstop Carlos Correa on Delino DeShields’ grounder allowed another run.
Cole’s 4 1/3 innings is a season low. He didn’t pitch less than five innings in all of 2018. And he never allowed more than four earned runs in a start all last season. The last time he was knocked out as quick was in August 2016 when he was with the Pirates.
He allowed nine runs, including a career-high eight earned runs on nine hits and three walks. He struck out eight.
“It’s a confidence booster,” Sampson said of the five-run first. “You don’t have to worry about other things, you can just go and attack your plan. Hats off to the offense tonight putting up nine runs.”
Joey Gallo’s solo homer in the third stretched the lead to 6-0. It was his eighth of the season and second in as many nights. On Friday he hit a solo shot measured a 442 feet by Statcast. Saturday’s homer went only (wink!) 433 feet. Both were moon shots that would have landed somewhere near Joe Pool Lake if the Globe Life Park stands in the right-field corner weren’t in the way.
“We made him work, frustrated him,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said of Cole. “He obviously won’t forget. He’s going to come after us every time he pitches against us. I was just proud of our guys digging in there and having great at-bats.”
After the Astros scored twice in the top of the fifth, the Rangers added three more in the bottom of the inning. DeShields drove in two of them with a triple to the wall in left-center field.
Reliever Shawn Kelly replaced Sampson in the fifth and induced a 1-4-3 inning-ending double play. He held Houston to one hit 1 2/3 innings. The Astros scored twice in the seventh against Jesse Chavez, but he worked a scoreless eighth and Chris Martin closed it out with a scoreless ninth.
“I thought Sampson did a great job the first two times through the lineup,” Woodward said. “He clearly out-pitched their guy. It was great for us.”