ARLINGTON -- The crowd wasn't quite as big as before, but this was the atmosphere the Rangers remembered from a few years ago, when September games meant something in Arlington.
"This was definitely a playoff-style atmosphere," Mitch Moreland said after the Rangers were done celebrating a 5-3 victory over the Astros on Monday night. "It was a back-and-forth game, a lot of opportunities, both pitchers pitched well, the bullpen stepped up big for us and we got some big hits. It's a lot of fun to play those types of games, and it was a good one to come out on top."
The Rangers still have three more games left with the Astros at home, but this victory left them a half-game behind their division rival in the American League West, with the two teams tied in the loss column.
"That was huge, that was sweet," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "We're playing a really good team, we're close in the division, this is what it is all about. Especially the crowd, when they got into the game, it made it more fun and great to play. I hope they keep supporting us, because they gave us extra energy."
The biggest jolt of energy came in the eighth inning, when Prince Fielder hit a two-run home run off reliever Will Harris to give the Rangers the lead. Fielder had gone 46 at-bats since hitting a home run, and the blast came on a one-out full-count pitch with Adrian Beltre running from first.
"I know, if it's close, I've got to swing," Fielder said. "Even though Adrian is super-fast, I've got to make sure I protect the plate. I was just trying to get a pitch I could hit hard."
The other big blast was a two-run home run by Moreland in the sixth off Astros starter Scott Kazmir. The two homers helped negate some transgressions, including a balk by starter Cole Hamels that led to a run, two defensive errors and going 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
But the Rangers also did many things well, among them a run-saving double play turned by Beltre and Rougned Odor in the sixth.
"It was a little bit of everything we went through all year," manager Jeff Banister said. "We didn't play as cleanly as we did at some point, but we had to grind and we showed some mettle. We needed for some guys to show up big, and they did."
The Rangers have won 15 of their last 23 and 15 of their last 19 at home. They also maintained a one-game lead over the Twins for the second AL Wild Card spot, but right now all they are thinking about is a division title. This was a big step.
"A complete effort," Banister said. "We had guys staying in the fight, they didn't get rattled, they stayed focused and put together some pretty special at-bats. It goes along with how we played all year long."