Texas Rangers

Astros remind Rangers how far they have to go

The contrast was stark.

Where the Houston Astros are at the moment compared to the Texas Rangers was no surprise when the season began. The Astros were World Series contender. The Rangers were in a rebuild mode.

But a four-game sweep at Minute Maid Park last weekend brought a striking reminder of just how much separates the two franchises in 2019.

Perhaps the 4-2 start against the Astros (all in Arlington) fooled some of us. Maybe the Rangers’ ability to stay at or just above .500 for much of the first six weeks of the season was a mirage. Maybe this stretch in which the Rangers have lost eight of their last 11 is more indicative of the season they’re going to have.

The message from Woodward to his team after Sunday’s 15-5 drubbing was simple: Flush it. Let it go.

Hunter Pence added some words of encouragement to the team, too.

“We’ve got to continue to grow, continue to get better,” Pence said after going 0 for 5 with a strikeout. “You have look to improve on things. You have to do some inner reflection.”

Pence wanted to make sure his teammates, especially the younger ones, didn’t let one bad series in Houston alter their confidence.

“There are lessons to be learned when you get beat, if you look at things objectively rather than emotionally,” he said. “You need to evaluate things correctly. The better the team you play against, the more you can learn. When you play teams of this caliber, you find out what you are made of. Let’s not let this [series] define us. Let’s get better from it.”

Elvis Andrus, who had two of the Rangers’ nine hits, including a two-run homer in the ninth, grudgingly tipped his cap to the Astros’ rotation, that included Corbin Martin, who made his first-career start on Sunday. He held Texas to two runs on three hits and struck out nine in 5 1/3 innings.

“There was a different edge facing us. They do have an amazing rotation. They beat us this series,” Andrus said. “But I will never give that much credit to another team. So you just turn the page and get ready for the next one.”

Three reactions from Sunday:

1. Bright spot — Jose Leclerc pitched 1 1/3 of scoreless relief with three strikeouts. He retired all four batters he faced. He got Alex Bregman to pop out to end the sixth and then struck out the side in the seventh. He did it in 18 pitches, including 12 strikes.

2. Elvis is in the building — Elvis Andrus played career game No. 1,513, which moves him ahead of Jim Sundberg for third all-time in club history. He trails only Rafael Palmeiro (1,573) and Michael Young (1,823).

3. Springer’s dingers — George Springer was 5 for 5 with two homers and four RBIs on Sunday. He leads the A.L. with 15 homer. He hit his fifth leadoff homer of the season and the 29th of his career. Only 15 players have more leadoff homers.

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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.