The Rangers have been more than just fine lately. They have won five straight and 10 of their last 11 games after a 9-5 victory over the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Friday night. The Rangers trailed 4-3 going into the top of the eighth before scoring six runs in the last two innings to pull away.
"It just looks to me like this is a bunch of guys playing like they are capable of playing," said outfielder David Murphy, who finished off the night with an RBI double in the ninth. "I love the way we're using every one of our 27 outs. It doesn't matter where we are in the game, we're grinding out our at-bats and making every one count."
The Rangers finished with 12 hits, and nobody had more than two. Texas got a hit from seven of its nine starters. The other two also contributed. Jeff Baker drove home a run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth and Craig Gentry scored a run by successfully dropping a suicide squeeze in the same inning.
"That's when we're at our best, when we get it from everybody," Washington said.
The Astros' bullpen entered the game with a 5.27 ERA, the worst in the league, and manager Bo Porter used five relievers in the last two innings trying to stop the bleeding. The bullpen has blown five of six save opportunities since the Astros traded Jose Veras to the Tigers on July 29.
"Same script, different day," Porter said. "It's one of those things at some point you feel like we're going to have to come out of this funk, and all you can do is keep giving them an opportunity."
With the victory, the Rangers remain tied with the Athletics for first place in the American League West, although they are one game back in the loss column. The Rangers are 34-14 against AL West teams this season.
Rangers starter Matt Garza earned the win while allowing four runs in seven innings. He gave up seven hits, including five for extra bases, walked one and struck out eight. Garza is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in four starts since being acquired from the Cubs on July 22.
"A great team win," Garza said. "I stayed around long enough to let the boys come back and pick me up. That was not the crispest fastball command, but I worked with [catcher A.J. Pierzynski ] and got through it. I just grinded it out, and today I got to be the good boy. I could have been the bad boy, but I was the good guy."
He was the good guy because the Rangers were able to rally against the Astros' bullpen after starter Erik Bedard held them to three runs in 6 2/3 innings. The Rangers trailed 4-3 going into the eighth before taking advantage of four walks to score four runs that inning.
Ian Kinsler opened the rally by drawing a walk off right-handed reliever Josh Zeid. He then stole second and scored on a broken-bat single by Adrian Beltre. Left-handed reliever Kevin Chapman struck out Pierzynski, and right-hander Josh Fields retired pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland on a grounder to first. But Porter walked Murphy intentionally to set up a right-handed matchup against Joey Butler.
Washington could have brought Engel Beltre off the bench as a left-handed pinch-hitter, but the Astros had a left-hander warming up in the bullpen. So Washington stayed with Butler, who had two doubles off Bedard earlier in his first Major League start.
"It was just a situation where I felt more comfortable with Butler against the right-hander than Beltre against the left-hander," Washington said. "Butler doesn't only hit left-handers."
Butler drew a walk to load the bases. Porter then brought in left-hander Wesley Wright to face Jurickson Profar. But the Rangers' rookie infielder worked the count to 3-1, fouled off three pitches and then took ball four to force home the go-ahead run.
"I was just thinking trying to get a basehit, and instead I got a walk and an RBI," Profar said.
"Tremendous," Washington said. "He battled and battled and battled and then laid off a pitch down and in."
Leonys Martin followed with a two-run double into the right-field corner to give the Rangers a 7-4 lead before Porter brought in Jorge DeLeon as his fifth pitcher of the inning. He retired Elvis Andrus on a line drive to center to end the inning.
Left-hander Neal Cotts kept the Astros from mounting their own eighth-inning comeback. He struck out pinch-hitter Marc Krauss with two outs and the bases loaded to keep the Rangers' lead intact. After the Rangers scored two runs in the ninth, Cotts finished out the Astros. He allowed one run but still earned his second Major League save. The first one was in 2006 with the White Sox.