Plugged back into the Texas Rangers’ lineup as the No. 6 hitter, Prince Fielder delivered an RBI single in his first at-bat Monday night and collected another single in the fifth.
It’s not a cure for his struggles, but it’s better than what he had been doing.
Fielder was playing for Mitch Moreland, the Rangers’ other struggling lefty-hitting slugger. An argument could be made that Moreland needed the time off more than Fielder.
But while Fielder was officially “unplugged,” as manager Jeff Banister calls it, Moreland was not. Just, it turns out, seven innings off for a weary player who had played 17 straight games and could get another day off Tuesday with lefty Dallas Keuchel pitching for the Houston Astros.
The good news for the Rangers is that they have been winning way more often than not despite the plate woes of their 2015 co-leaders in home runs. Jurickson Profar’s hot bat has made the plugging and unplugging possible, along with the return of Rougned Odor.
Both were in the middle of another Rangers home win against the Astros.
Odor’s double off the left-field wall with two outs in the ninth inning scored Adrian Beltre from first base, giving the Rangers a 6-5 walk-off victory and their 11th straight home win over the Astros.
“I felt like the lineup set up well for us there in the last inning to try to push something across,” Banister said. “All of our guys continue to stay engaged. We came up with the big hit by Odor.”
Odor also hit a solo homer in third and drove in the game-tying run in the seventh with a sacrifice fly. Profar led off the first with a triple and scored the game’s first run. Nomar Mazara was 4 for 4 and scored twice, and Beltre’s hustle down the line to beat out the back end of a double play gave Odor a chance in the ninth against Ken Giles.
Moreland sat after batting .089 (5 for 56) in his past 16 games to drop his average from .258 to .206. During that span, he has struck out 18 times, walked only three times and had a .083 batting average on balls in play.
He said that nothing with his swing and routine has changed from last season, the best of his career as he posted career-highs in just about every major category. Teams continue to shift the infield into right field against him.
He said that his luck is all that has changed.
“It’s part of the game,” Moreland said. “You hit some balls into the shift, hit some stuff hard, and they don’t fall. We’ve still got four months left in the season. There’s still a good chunk of the season left. Just got to go up and continue to hit them hard and try to have a good approach. You know, eventually they start falling, and that’s kind of where we’re at right now.”
Meanwhile, Profar, who started at second base, worked out before the game at first base, a position he has never played at any level. Banister said that it won’t take long for Profar to adapt to the new position because he has experience on the right side of the infield.
Profar, who likely will play first base sparingly as Hanser Alberto did earlier this season, said that he doesn’t find the position to be particularly challenging.
“Nothing makes me nervous,” Profar said. “There’s nothing challenging. I just asked them to remind me on the positioning on the cutoffs.”
Fielder was the starter at first base Monday, only his third game this season in the field. Banister was hopeful that getting Fielder more involved in the game would jump-start his bat.
He entered Monday hitting .187 overall after stretches of 11 for 57 (.193) and 14 for 90 (.156). Fielder, though, singled in the third and final run in the first inning for a 3-0 lead that held until Jose Altuve took Colby Lewis out for a three-run shot in the third.
Lewis’ throwing error contributed to one of the runs being unearned.
The Rangers countered with Odor’s first homer since May 9 to start their third inning, but the Astros quickly tied it in the fourth.
After missing a chance for more in the fourth and failing to score despite loading the bases with one out in the sixth, Houston scored quickly in the seventh against Tony Barnette. The right-hander issued a leadoff walk to Carlos Correa, who advanced on a wild pitch and scored as Colby Rasmus followed with a single.
Odor tied it in the Rangers’ seventh with a sacrifice fly to score Mazara, who opened with his third single of the game, went to second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on an Adrian Beltre single.
Fielder struck out in the inning and was replaced by Moreland at first base in the eighth, when Matt Bush worked a perfect inning. Sam Dyson got the win with a perfect ninth inning as the third reliever after Lewis allowed four runs (three earned) in six innings.
Rangers vs. Astros
7:05 p.m. Tuesday, FSSW, Root