HOUSTON -- The Rangers continued their dominance of the Astros and moved another step closer to clinching the American League West with a 6-2 win on Friday night at Minute Maid Park, reducing their magic number to clinch the division to five.
The Rangers, who beat the Astros for the eighth consecutive time, opened a 4 1/2-game lead over the reeling Astros, who fell to 7-15 in September. The Astros are hanging on in the Wild Card race. Their lead over the Angels for the second spot is a mere half-game following the Angels' win over the Mariners. The Twins lost to the Tigers and remain 1 1/2 games back.
"They play well at home, so this was a huge win for us," Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson said. "We have foreseen this series for a while as a big series, so to get that first win and build some momentum is huge."
A two-run double by Prince Fielder in the first and a two-out bloop single by Shin-Soo Choo in the second put the Rangers ahead, 2-0, and Choo blasted a two-run homer in a three-run fourth inning that made it 5-0. Astros left-hander Scott Kazmir (7-11) was rocked for six runs and 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings.
"The results aren't there for us right now, and it's piled up a little bit," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I do believe in this team, I believe we'll respond favorably, but obviously, we've got to go out there and prove it. It's there for the taking, but we've got to find a way to find better results."
Yovani Gallardo went 4 2/3 innings for the Rangers, allowing two runs and eight hits. The Astros had a runner reach scoring position in each of the first six innings, scoring a pair in the fourth on a two-run homer by Luis Valbuena.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Choo comes through with two outs: Choo continues to be incredibly hot, and he had a pair of big two-out hits. He hit a two-out, run-scoring single in the second inning and a two-run home run in the fourth, both off Kazmir. He went 3-for-5 on the night and is now 17-for-33 in his last nine games.
"I'm just playing and enjoying it, especially the team situation and being in first place," Choo said. "In eight years I have never been on a first-place team; it has given me a lot of energy."
Kazmir rocked: Kazmir had posted solid numbers against the Rangers this season, going 2-1 with a 1.60 ERA in five starts against them prior to Friday. The six runs he allowed were one shy of the seven he had given up his previous two starts against the Rangers, the only two he had made against them while with the Astros. More >
Gimenez gets first triple:Chris Gimenez hit his first Major League triple with two out in the second inning, and he later scored on a single by Choo to give the Rangers a three-run lead. Gimenez went 528 at-bats before getting his first triple.
"How about that?" Gimenez said. "It was more like, 'What happened? How many times did the guy fall down?'"
Gattis gets No. 10: Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis, the burly slugger who has no career steals, recorded his 10th triple of the season in the fourth inning. He joins Jose Cruz and Joe Morgan as the only Astros to record 10 homers, 10 doubles and 10 triples in the same season. No player has finished with at least 10 triples and no stolen bases since Jerry Lumpe in 1962.
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve left the game in the seventh inning following a collision with shortstop Carlos Correa, but postgame tests revealed no concussion, and he is expected to play on Saturday. Both players converged on a popup in shallow center field off the bat of Elvis Andrus, and Correa's left arm smashed Altuve in the face as he caught the ball. Altuve dropped the ball when he hit the ground.
"That's a tough play, because when someone hits a ball shallow in the outfield, you don't have to call for the ball, because that's the outfield call," Altuve said. "I never saw Correa. I guess he never saw me. I don't blame him, I don't blame me. That's just a difficult play to execute." More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
This was the first time in 32 starts that the Rangers scored at least six runs with Gallardo on the mound. No Rangers pitcher had ever made 30 or more starts in a season without getting six-plus runs in at least one of those games. The Rangers were averaging 3.67 runs per nine innings this season with Gallardo on the mound, the third lowest in the AL.
"It's pennant-race baseball. It's a big-boy business. We're tough enough to overcome this as a group. I know we are. Whether we do or not is going to be played out in the next week, but I believe in our guys. They have what it takes to bounce back out of this. It can start quickly. It can start tomorrow. I think our guys have the energy and aptitude to make a push." -- Hinch
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Rangers manager Jeff Banister got a call reversed in the third inning without a replay review. With one out and George Springer running from first, Jed Lowrie hit a two-hop ground ball to first baseman Mitch Moreland for an easy out until first-base umpire Brian Knight called it foul. The call was made because it was believed that the ball initially hit off Lowrie's foot. The call was not reviewable, but Banister convinced the umpires to confer on the play. They did, and the call was reversed. Lowrie was out, and Springer was at second.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch unsuccessfully challenged the on-field call on the Altuve play in the seventh inning, and Correa was charged with an error.
WHAT'S NEXT Rangers: Left-hander Derek Holland pitches against the Astros at 12:05 p.m. on Saturday at Minute Maid Park. Holland is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in his last three starts, and he is 3-2 with a 4.10 ERA in nine career starts against the Astros.
Astros: Right-hander Collin McHugh (17-7, 3.93 ERA) will get the start for the Astros at 12:05 p.m. CT at Minute Maid Park. McHugh has gone 8-2 with a 3.08 ERA in his 10 starts, allowing 77 hits in 76 innings. He has given up exactly five earned runs in three of those 12 starts, including his Sept. 15 out at Texas when he went just 3 2/3 innings.