Rangers Derek Holland earned the win after Saturday against Astros
Perhaps looking to add drama to what is quickly becoming a runaway in the American League West, the Texas Rangers issued warnings Saturday evening that looking ahead or feeling too comfortable could lead to catastrophe.
“It’s too crazy to settle and start thinking that we’ve won the division already,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “There’s a lot of baseball left ahead, and you have to continue to keep playing and trying to create more space.”
Maybe that is the remaining drama — seeing how far the Rangers can stretch their division lead. At this rate, the Rangers could clinch the AL West within the next two weeks.
They won for the seventh consecutive time Saturday afternoon, turning a close game in the seventh inning into a 12-4 drubbing of the Houston Astros and extending their lead in the West to 10 1/2 games.
The Astros have been reduced to playing for a wild-card berth, though the Rangers aren’t willing to assume anything, despite having the second-largest lead in franchise history.
“This is not a time to look up and look at how it is, what it is and where we are,” manager Jeff Banister said. “We need to continue to play baseball. I believe that any time you look up and start thinking about that kind of stuff before you accomplish what you need to accomplish, then you’re just setting yourself up for situations that can become challenging.”
This is not a time to look up and look at how it is, what it is and where we are. We need to continue to play baseball.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister
Adrian Beltre connected for a solo homer, Mitch Moreland had a key two-out, two-run single in the fourth to break a 1-1 tie, and Nomar Mazara launched a two-run homer in the fifth as the Rangers improved to 13-2 this season against the Astros.
Moreland, Mazara, Ian Desmond, Carlos Beltran and Rougned Odor drove in two runs apiece, and every Rangers starter collected at least one hit. Beltre and Robinson Chirinos had three hits apiece.
The Rangers reached double digits in runs for the third consecutive game and have scored 69 runs in the first nine games of a 10-game homestand that ends Sunday with Yu Darvish on the mound.
Moreover, each time the Astros seemed to threaten or seemed to be on the verge of an escape, the Rangers trumped them.
None was bigger than in the seventh inning. The Astros trailed 5-2 but had the bases loaded with one out and their leading RBI man, Carlos Correa, batting after right-hander Keone Kela had just taken a line drive off his pitching hand.
Correa, though, sent a grounder to Andrus, and the shortstop turned an inning-ending double play to kill the Astros’ threat.
“It was huge,” Andrus said. “At that point it was just three runs. A good hit, and it’s a game-changer. Kela did a great job.”
13-2 Rangers’ record this season against the Astros
The Rangers pulled away over the next two innings, scoring two in the seventh and five in the eighth. The second run in the seventh came on a double steal, even though Odor appeared to be an easy out at second.
Instead, he pulled his left hand back and twisted away from the tag of Jose Altuve to sneak into second base, and Desmond trotted in from third with a steal of home.
Worse for the Astros, Altuve tweaked his right calf muscle on a game-ending double play and might not play in the series finale.
“We had the one big inning with the bases loaded; they get the double play,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “They come back and punch us in the mouth with a couple runs. So, they’re good. This is how they’re good. Our good version of us does these things to other teams as well. We haven’t been able to solve it here.”
Derek Holland won his second straight start by allowing two runs in six innings despite not being at his best. The Astros put runners on in each of his final five innings but were 1 for 6 against him with runners in scoring position.
Holland has allowed four runs in three starts covering six innings apiece since coming off the disabled list.
“You have to continue to go out there and find everything and continue to pitch,” Holland said. “You’re not always going to have your best stuff when you go out there.
“Today, I didn’t feel like I had my best stuff, but the main thing was I was out there pitching. I was executing when I needed to and kept the damage down as much as I possibly could.”