Rangers gain half-game on second Wild Card

Rangers gain half-game on second Wild Card

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers still need help and didn't get it on Monday. Instead, they had to be satisfied taking care of their own business against the struggling Astros.

The Rangers have been pounding the Astros all season and did it again at the Ballpark in Arlington. Derek Holland picked up his first win since Aug. 4, Alex Rios hit for the cycle and the Rangers snapped a seven-game home losing streak with a 12-0 victory over the Astros on Monday night.

Rios had a two-run double in the first, an infield single to open the Rangers' four-run third, a home run in the fourth and finally a run-scoring triple in the sixth to become the seventh player in club history to hit for the cycle. It's the first time for Rios and the third (Anaheim's Mike Trout and Houston's Brandon Barnes ) in the Major Leagues this season.

With the victory, the Rangers remain two games behind Tampa Bay in the Wild Card race after the Rays rallied to beat the Orioles earlier in the day. But they did pick up a half-game on the idle Indians and are one game behind them with six to play. The two American League Wild Card spots appear to be down to three teams, and right now the Rangers are the ones on the outside looking at the other two.

"The good thing is we won," Rios said. "It doesn't do any good looking at what's happening around us. We know what's in front of us. It's not going to be easy, but we're still optimistic."

The victory was also the Rangers' 15th against the Astros this season, which ties a club record for most wins against a club in a single season. They beat the Mariners 15 times in 2011. The Astros have lost 10 straight with two more to play against a team that has to go all out to win every game.

"We're still fighting, and we're not going to stop until they tell us to stop," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "This was a big win. The bats woke up. That's what we need. We woke up the bats and now, hopefully, we can carry that momentum through the whole week."

Holland, who tossed his second shutout of the season -- the other coming on June 27 against the Yankees -- and seventh of his career, allowed six hits and a walk while striking out nine after going 0-3 with a 5.08 ERA in his previous eight starts. He earned his 10th win and went over 200 innings for the first time in his career.

"The guys made great plays around me, the defense was unbelievable," Holland said. "Alex Rios was the star with the cycle. That was huge. We were joking about how I don't get much run support but no matter what happened, I didn't want them to score any runs or get the momentum back on their side."

The seven career shutouts are the most by a Rangers left-hander in club history. It was also the first at the Ballpark in Arlington by a Rangers pitcher since Holland did it against the Athletics on July 7, 2011.

"He was good. He's a guy that's had a lot of success at the big league level. He was throwing his fastball effectively for strikes with location," Astros outfielder Trevor Crowe said. "The bottom line is they looked like a team that was fighting for a playoff spot. Not that we're out of it mentally, but we just haven't brought the same intensity that Cleveland brought for four days and Texas brought today."

With Rios leading the assault, the Rangers pounded Astros starter Jordan Lyles for seven runs in three innings. After Rios drove in two in the first, Ian Kinsler made it 3-0 with an RBI double in the second. The Rangers then broke it open in the third, with David Murphy getting a bases-loaded walk and Leonys Martin hitting a three-run double.

Rios' home run off of David Martinez in the fourth was the Rangers' first home run in four games.

"It's been a while since we scored runs early," manager Ron Washington said. "The key was we continued to put runs on the board. That's certainly something we have been looking for. It looks like our pitchers are getting themselves back together, so we have to be able to support them. We have to keep putting runs on the board."

They have six more games to go. But no matter how many runs they score, they are still going to need somebody to beat the Rays and/or the Indians.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.