No Texas Rangers team had gone winless on the road more than seven times in a season before the Houston Astros’ beat them Wednesday night for their eighth loss in eight games this season at Minute Maid Park.
All that stood between the Rangers going 0-for-2019 was rookie left-hander Kolby Allard, who wasn’t even in the organization for the first seven losses.
Hello, 0-9, though it wasn’t Allard’s fault after he allowed two runs on four hits in five innings in a 3-2 loss.
Cole allowed two runs in eight innings and became the third pitcher in Astros history to reach 300 strikeouts in a season, and Yuli Gurriel and Jose Altuve hit home runs to lift Houston.
The first two Rangers reached in the ninth, but Odor struck out and Ronald Guzman, who homered in the eighth, bounced into a double play.
Just the prospect of a winless season at any ballpark was difficult for the Rangers to imagine, even though the Astros won their MLB-best 100th game of the season.
“As good as they are, we know we can still beat them,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “Apparently, there’s something to it for us here this year to not be able to win.”
The 0-9 mark suggests that the Astros dominated the Rangers, and at times they did. Manager Chris Woodward acknowledges as much, but also notes that the Astros took games the Rangers seemed primed to win.
The most obvious of those came May 9, when the Rangers were down 4-2 in the ninth inning but had two runners on and Hunter Pence batting. He sent a drive to right field that had home-run distance, but Josh Reddick made a running, leaping catch to rob Pence of the go-ahead homer.
On Wednesday, Astros right-fielder Kyle Tucker leaped to take a third-inning solo homer from Scott Heineman.
Six of the Rangers’ nine losses were by three runs or less. The Rangers went 6-4 against the Astros at Globe Life Park.
“I really like the way our guys competed tonight,” Woodward said. “We didn’t want to lose every game here in Houston, and today was kind of representative of what’s been doing on. They had a couple homers, we had one robbed, and we pressure their closer and he gets lucky. Our guys our putting their best foot forward.
“You ask that ballclub on the other side, and they’ll know we play them hard. They talk about it openly with our guys. It’s just frustrating because I want a little bit of results for our guys. They played their butts off. They deserved to win.”
Allard had his first crack at the Astros after facing only one winning team in his first seven starts of the season. Though he turned only 22 last month, he has impressed the Rangers with his level of pitching maturity.
He has 471 career innings in the minor leagues over 86 starts since the Atlanta Braves drafted in the first round of the 2015 MLB draft. That’s a good chunk of development time for a starter.
Allard has also left his mark by the way he competes on the mound. His third Rangers start, Aug. 19 against the Los Angeles Angels, convinced the Rangers they had someone who will battle.
He allowed five first-inning runs and two more in the second to put the Rangers in a 7-2 hole. Rather than lose focus, he became more zeroed in and delivered three scoreless innings in a game the Rangers eventually won 8-7.
“That’s one thing you don’t know until you get him: He’s a competitor,” Woodward said. “He is not afraid. He doesn’t seemed to be bothered by much. What I saw that Angels game, he got his butt kicked and didn’t stop competing.
“Most of the time you see things start to go sideways and balls start to elevate and you see a defeated look out there. ... When he faced Trout, I think we were down, and he punched out Trout. He went out and executed against the best hitter in baseball without any fear. That showed me a lot.”