Texas Rangers

Chance to win series vs. Astros slips away from Rangers, but this was reinforced Sunday

A four-game split against the American League West leaders and one of the best teams in baseball would be an acceptable result ordinarily.

The Texas Rangers, though, had their eyes on a series win over the Houston Astros, especially after winning the first two games. A 3-1 start to the second half would have been a strong statement.

“I’m not OK (with the split),” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “We had an opportunity to win, especially yesterday. If we win that game, we would have won the series.”

But maybe the split is a statement.

The Rangers showed they can be competitive when they get enough pitching, but they aren’t particularly competitive when they don’t get a good start or when they run out of relievers.

That much was known. General manager Jon Daniels said as much Friday when mulling possibilities ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.

The need for pitching help reinforced late in Saturday’s loss and throughout a 12-4 thumping Sunday afternoon in which starter Ariel Jurado struggled and the bullpen couldn’t keep the game within reach.

“We came out of the break and won two games,” manager Chris Woodward said. “We had a really good opportunity to win the third to win the series yesterday. That’s a great team over there.

“To go toe to toe with them for that long, and show them, hey, we had a chance to win the first three games. They had to execute. We had them by the throat a little bit yesterday. We knew today was going to be tough.”

The first five Astros reached to open the game against Jurado in a three-run first inning, and Jose Altuve hit a grand slam as the Astros scored seven times in the seventh inning to turn a 5-2 game into a runaway.

Jurado lasted only four innings, allowing five runs, and the Rangers managed only four hits and two runs in six innings against Astros ace Justin Verlander. The Rangers got them in their half of the first, which ended with Nomar Mazara out in a rundown between second and third.

Jurado, though, couldn’t provide a shutout down as the Astros countered with two runs. Jurado, who was considered a premium strike thrower in the minors, walked four as he battled a mechanical issue he couldn’t solve until the third inning.

Houston’s big inning came against the last two arms standing in the bullpen, left-handers Jesse Biddle and Kyle Bird.

The Rangers lost 7-6 in 11 innings Saturday. Brett Martin, who is becoming a part of the late-inning mix, was tagged with the loss in a game in which right-handers Jose Leclerc and Shawn Kelley were unavailable.

The addition of another starter or reliever, or one of each, would give the Rangers more pitching depth.

“It’s always nice to add,” Andrus said last week.

The Rangers finished the series where they opened it ­— six games above .500, nine games behind the Astros in the West and three games out of the second wild card.

The Rangers will open a 10-game road trip Friday at Houston after home games Tuesday and Wednesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

They headed into an off-day Monday with a lopsided loss, but Woodward isn’t discouraged.

“I like where we’re at,” he said. “It’s a good start to the second half.”

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After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.