Texas Rangers

Astros’ sweep makes it clear the Rangers’ direction approaching trade deadline

The Texas Rangers are making this easy for general manager Jon Daniels.

The Rangers’ losing streak reached seven games Sunday afternoon as the Houston Astros completed a three-game sweep with a 5-3 win at Minute Maid Park.

Texas has been swept twice in its past two trips to Houston, including a four-game sweep in early May. Both have come after the Rangers started the season 4-2 against the Astros.

But those good vibes are long gone. Texas is now just one game above .500 and has gone from a team in wild card contention and wondering whether it was buyers or sellers with the pending, July 31 trade deadline approaching to obvious sellers.

“We lose seven in a row and now I guarantee you there’s going to be [people saying] ‘Oh, the Rangers are done,’” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “There’s a lot of character in that room. We’re not done. I promise you that. They like proving people wrong.”

The Astros hit nine home runs and five doubles in the series, including two by Michael Brantley on Sunday. Brantley’s two-run homer in the first against Lance Lynn got the scoring started. He later homered against Chris Martin in the eighth.

Lynn regrouped and retired 12 of the next 14 batters he faced, including 10 on strikeouts. But Jose Altuve’s solo homer snapped that string in the fifth. Yordan Alvarez later drove in Alex Bregman in the inning to push Houston’s lead to 4-1.

Lynn allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks. He tied a career high with 12 strikeouts.

Rangers hitters struck out 41 times in the series and lead the majors with 1,007. They’re on pace to beat the Chicago White Sox’s 2018 record for strikeouts in a season (1,594). Woodward held a team meeting after Sunday’s game in which he and several veteran players spoke. Elvis Andrus reminded his teammates, especially the younger players, to not let a poor performance affect their next at-bat or next game.

“You can see that. It’s normal, but it’s the last thing you want,” said Andrus, who is 2 for 25 during the seven-game losing streak. He was 1 for 12 with five strikeouts in Houston. “That’s one of the things you learn through the years. Don’t let what’s going on affect you the next game, the next inning, the next at-bat.”

Joey Gallo, who had an All-Star first half, has struggled since the break. In the three-game set against Houston, he was 0 for 12 with nine strikeouts, including four on Sunday. He’s 3 for 30 with 17 strikeouts since the break.

But he’s not the only one who is struggling. Nomar Mazara, who homered in the sixth, is 4 for 34 with three RBIs in his past nine games.

Rougned Odor is 3 for 29 with 13 strikeouts in his past eight games after showing signs of snapping out of a season-long offensive struggle. He’s batting .189 for the season.

Texas starts a three-game series against the Mariners in Seattle on Monday before finishing the trip with four against the Athletics in Oakland.

Veteran Hunter Pence, who was 3 for 8 with one strikeout in the series (as a pinch-hitter in the ninth on Sunday), is hopeful they have the right mindset to snap out of it.

“When you’re going through tough times, you ask the question, why,” Pence said. “If it was a lack of effort, lack of heart you could have some bigger questions. We have some improving to do but as far as effort, heart, preparation and process, I’m very happy with everything that is going on here.”

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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.