Houston rallies late, but Texas' offense proves too much to overcome
By Brian McTaggart and T.R. Sullivan
HOUSTON -- The Rangers rode a strong effort from starting pitcher Colby Lewis, who continued his domination of the Astros, and held off a pair late rallies for a tension-filled 7-6 win on Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 41,941 at Minute Maid Park in which both benches emptied in the ninth inning.
"This was a good win," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Our guys are not going to be pushed around."
The Astros rallied for three runs in the eighth, cutting the lead to 5-4, before stranding runners at second and third. Benches cleared in the ninth after Astros catcher Hank Conger appeared to motion Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor back into the batter's box. They exchanged words before players and coaches from both teams spilled onto the field near home plate.
"If you wonder if games in July matter, tonight's probably proof positive," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "There's some emotion involved and there's some intent to win the game. I thought our guys did a great job at the end. We didn't generate enough offense early in the game off of Lewis. We haven't been able to solve him a couple of times now. Good baseball, a lot of hard-fought parts of this game, but they just did more than we did."
Conger's two-run homer in the ninth off Shawn Tolleson cut the Rangers' lead to 7-6, but the Astros couldn't close the deal. The Rangers built a 4-0 lead through six innings behind Lewis, who improved to 7-1 in 13 career appearances (10 starts) against the Astros, and homers by Odor in the third and Robinson Chirinos in the sixth off Astros starter Scott Feldman (4-5), who was making his first start since late May following knee surgery.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED No bunt, no problem: After Delino DeShields led off the third inning with a double, Odor fouled off two pitches trying to bunt. After taking a curve in the dirt, Odor crushed a 1-2 changeup deep into the right-field seats for a two-run home run.
"I was trying to move the runner and if I got a base hit that's good," Odor said. "Then I swung away and got a good pitch to hit."
Feldman loses his return: The Astros were hoping the return of Feldman from knee surgery that sidelined him for six weeks would be a big boost to the rotation. Feldman, who was making his first start since May 26 at Baltimore, allowed nine hits and four runs in 5 2/3 innings and suffered his first loss in four starts.
"I think I was mainly just pleased that I know that I'm healthy and there's no issues with my knee at all," Feldman said. "But we're in a pennant race, though, so it's not time for me to be pleased with an outing like that. I need to go six, seven innings and limit the damage. We did a good job of putting some runs across, but in the end I gave up a few too many. Hopefully, I can do a better job next time."
Odor sparks rally: Odor responded to the ninth-inning dustup by hitting a leadoff triple. That led to two more runs and gave the Rangers a 7-4 lead.
"I like the way our guys responded that inning," Banister said. "These guys like to pick each other up. Everybody picked each other up."
Correa ignites Astros: The Astros' struggling offense came to life thanks to rookie shortstop Carlos Correa, who ruined Lewis' shutout bid with a solo homer to start the seventh inning -- his eighth of the season. Correa, who made a terrific play to cap Friday's win, added an RBI single during the Astros' three-run rally in the eighth.
"They put good swings on some good pitches and we were able to rally," Correa said. "The crowd was able to be there the whole time and support us. That's something that kept us going and something that's going to make us play better." More >
BENCHES CLEAR IN NINTH
Astros manager A.J. Hinch and Rangers manager Jeff Banister had to be separated during a benches-clearing incident in the ninth. The incident began when Conger and Odor exchanged words at the plate and things quickly escalated, with both managers being separated by the plate umpire and Rangers slugger Prince Fielder pushing Hinch. Both benches and bullpens cleared before order was restored. More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Correa is the first shortstop since 1914 to tally eight homers in his first 34 career games.
"I don't really know that Odor guy much, but he's got some good veterans he can learn the game from over there, like Beltre, Prince. He doesn't need to act like that. Hopefully, it's over with and just move on for tomorrow." -- Feldman, the former Ranger.
The Astros' second run in the eighth was upheld after a Rangers challenge that took four minutes and 34 second to decide. The Astros, trailing 5-1, had Marwin Gonzalez at first with two outs when Jose Altuve doubled to left off reliever Tanner Scheppers. Gonzalez tried to score but a relay of Leonys Martin to Elvis Andrus to catcher Robinson Chirinos made it close. Gonzalez was called safe as he slid in head-first, but the Rangers thought Chirinos blocked him off the plate. After the lengthy delay, the call was upheld.
The Astros scored three in the inning and had runners at second and third with two out when Sam Freeman got L.J. Hoes on a grounder back to the mound to end the threat.
WHAT'S NEXT Rangers: Right-hander Yovani Gallardo pitches for the Rangers against the Astros at 1:10 p.m. CT on Sunday at Minute Maid Park. Gallardo is 14-3 with a 2.72 ERA in 18 career starts against the Astros. That's the second-most wins against them by any active pitcher.
Astros: Ace lefty Dallas Keuchel will make his first start since starting for the American League in the All-Star Game at 1:10 p.m. CT Sunday against the Rangers at Minute Maid Park. Keuchel (11-4, 2.23 ERA) has gone at least six innings in 30 consecutive starts, which is two starts shy of Brett Myers' club record set in 2010.