The Texas Rangers are officially in a nose dive.
Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a shock, especially considering the preseason predictions and assumptions most had about the club, but here we are.
The Rangers’ losing streak reached a season-high six games Saturday night in Houston as the Astros laid it on 6-1 at Minute Maid Park.
If Texas isn’t circling the wagons just yet, it’s at least preparing for the formation. That means getting serious about trading valuable players, such as Mike Minor, Hunter Pence or Shin-Soo Choo, should the right deal come along before the July 31 deadline.
The Rangers (50-48) are 2-6 since the All-Star break, and their chances of hanging around in the wild card race are slipping away. In fact, they could find themselves in fourth place in their division soon, behind the Los Angeles Angels.
“This is a critical time for us as a unit,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “We’ve built this belief that we’re going to be a winning team, that we’re going to be a contending team, and we need to get back to that feeling as a group and lean on one another.”
With the win, the Astros clinched the Silver Boot trophy with three clashes remaining this season, including Sunday’s series finale. Houston has a 10-6 advantage. The Astros have now won the trophy in three consecutive seasons.
Ariel Jurado was charged with five runs on eight hits in five innings. The Astros hit two homers, including Yuli Gurriel’s three-run shot in the fifth that gave Houston a 5-1 lead. Jurado drops to 5-6 with the loss.
Choo’s solo homer in the fourth provided the lone run for the Rangers. Texas was held to two hits and struck out 13 times. Texas leads the majors with 994 strikeouts this season.
Astros starter Jose Urquidy allowed one run — Choo’s homer — on two hits over seven innings to earn his first career win in his third major league start. He struck out nine and walked none. The Rangers’ two hits tied a season low.
Urquidy used an effective changeup that had most hitters fooled, except for a 3-2 changeup that Choo hit out to center in the fourth. Urquidy’s arm action for his changeup was very similar to his fastball, which makes picking it up that much tougher.
“Any time, any count, he threw a changeup. I think he had a lot of confidence in throwing it tonight because we were chasing it a lot,” Choo said. “We made him more comfortable and confident (with it).”
Woodward said he’s likely to address the team before Sunday’s finale to remind his club about staying together. But with the trade deadline looming, the team could literally be broken up in the next 10 days.
“This is a tough time, and it’s always a test for a team when guys are going to go their separate ways,” Woodward said. “This is kind of that moment. And I trust our guys aren’t going to do that. We have a really good group in that clubhouse, and I don’t expect them to give in at any point. We have a lot of fight left. But we do need to come together and win a ballgame (Sunday).”