Texas Rangers

The ‘fun factor’ was high during Rangers’ wild 11-10 win over Astros

The Texas Rangers were feeling pretty good headed to Oakland Sunday night.

They had just taken two of three from the Houston Astros and went 6-2 on their homestand. Texas has won six of their past seven and are four games above .500 for the first time since finishing the 2016 season with an American League-best record of 95-67.

The roughed up two Astros’ starters, including Collin McHugh on Sunday and scored 20 combined runs in their two series wins. Before Saturday, the Astros had allowed a combined 20 runs in their previous seven games.

Rangers’ starter Shelby Miller earned his first win since April 18, 2017, when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks after going 5 1/3. He allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and two walks and struck out three.

Here’s five reactions from Sunday’s 11-10 win:

1. Sac fly for Gallo

Joey Gallo had a great day at the plate, going 2 for 3 with a triple and tying a career high with five RBIs. But his proudest moment of the game? His fifth-inning sacrifice fly that scored Danny Santana. It was the first of his career after 1,336 plate appearances. His teammates reacted as if he’d hit a five-run homer and Gallo was relieved to finally get one.

“[My teammates] didn’t really care, but just media and fans,” Gallo said. “It was good to get that out of the way. Obviously, they (teammates) knew about it as well. You saw their reaction; I got the ball, too. So that was pretty cool.”

Andrus joked that as many home runs as Gallo has hit in the past two-plus seasons (89, including eight this season), he should already have a 1,000 sac flies.

2. Choo-mendous

Shin-Soo Choo has reached safely in to lead off in nine consecutive games. Seven of his team-leading 10 doubles have come in the first inning. His 10 doubles are tied for the second-most by a Rangers player in the first 20 games. It’s the most since Michael Young had 10 in 2006. Choo’s on-base percentage is sitting at a glittering .430, which is tied for 13th in the majors.

3. Pence laser

Hunter Pence hit it so hard he wasn’t even sure it was going out. His two-run homer in the fourth was registered at 456 feet and 113 mph by Statcast and it barely sailed 10 feet off the ground. Pence has homers in two of his last four starts.

“I was running, and I didn’t even see it go out, just the trajectory,” he said. “Yeah, I was running hard and glad it went out.”

4. The ‘Fun Factor’

Sunday was a particularly windy day at Globe Life Park. It wreaked havoc on several fly balls, including a line drive off Choo’s glove in right field, a 207-foot pop up from Gallo that no Astros infielder located and dropped for an RBI single near shortstop and a sinking liner that skipped by Delino DeShields in center.

Pence has been playing in San Francisco for the past seven seasons in a ballpark known for it’s wind. But it’s different, Pene said.

“That wind was knocking the ball down. This wind [in Arlington] could be carrying it, could be knocking it down, it’s definitely one of those tricky wind spots,” he said. “Any pop fly, you gotta be running, because it’s hard on those infielders and outfielders, so it’s definitely a factor in the games here. I think it’s also a fun factor. You get some wild plays and some interesting stuff happens.”

5. Let’s talk about Leclerc

It’s only April, but have the Rangers put too much on closer Jose Leclerc? The 22-year-old walked four and allowed a homer in 2/3 Sunday before Shawn Kelley came in to save the day for Texas. He’s allowed seven earned runs in eight innings, including three to the Diamondbacks in his only blown save on April 9. Woodward suggested he might be tipping his pitches to the Astros, but Leclerc didn’t think that was the case. Leclerc said he was overthrowing and it effected his command.

“I’m trying to do too much,” he said. “Everything feels good. I think I’m trying too hard and show I can do the best that I can … trying to be too perfect.”

Woodward thinks hitter’s are being tipped off because Leclerc has forced fewer to chase on pitches on the edge of the zone with his changeup. Woodward said he’ll go back to Leclerc Monday in Oakland if the situation calls for it despite him throwing 36 pitches on Sunday. That’s the most he’s throw in a game since 2017.

“We thought something was going on before, that teams had something on him as far as tipping his pitches. I believe that because guys are dead on his fastball and not swinging at his changeup,” he said. “I feel bad for him, he’s going through a tough situation, some bad outings. Obviously, if we lose that game it would sting a little bit being up 10-1. As long he’s healthy enough, I’m putting the ball back in his hands.”

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.