Michael Choice's first career home run tied Saturday's game in the bottom of the ninth inning, but a Jose Altuve sacrifice fly in the tenth inning put the Astros in front for good in a 6-5 extra-inning victory over the Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Choice pinch-hit for Mitch Moreland against the left-handed Kevin Chapman, and sent a 1-0 pitch into the Texas bullpen to knot it up at five runs apiece.
Ranger right fielder Alex Rios had trouble handling a Jason Castro one-out triple in the right field corner with one out in the tenth, as the ball got stuck under the padding on the outfield fence. Rios described it as a "bizarre" play. Castro's hit set up Altuve's go-ahead RBI.
Texas couldn't create enough late-inning magic to leapfrog back on top. Choice once again came to the plate with a chance to tie it in the tenth, but grounded out softly to first base with the tying run 90 feet away from home.
Prior to the tenth-inning sac fly from the 5-foot-5 Altuve, all of the Astros' damage was done in the fourth inning.
Houston, which managed only two hits in Friday’s 12-inning marathon, recorded four hits, including a three-run home run from Robbie Grossman, in the fourth frame. A bases-loaded sacrifice fly from Carlos Corporan and an RBI single by Matt Dominguez brought home the first two Astro runs of the night before Grossman’s blast.
Down two runs in the eighth inning, the lead was cut in half when Elvis Andrus drew a 10-pitch walk and Rios brought him home with a smash to the warning track in left field. The potential surge was quelled when Rios was caught stealing third base with no one out in the inning.
"That was a poor decision on his part," manager Ron Washington said. "He just did a great thing hitting a double to put us back in the ballgame with Prince [Fielder] up there, it was just a poor decision."
"I was trying to be aggressive and make things easier for the hitters," Rios said. "In that situation you have to let things flow naturally, and I was a little too aggressive."
Only two Houston hitters reached base outside of the fourth inning against Ranger starter Tanner Scheppers. Each was a hit batsman. Scheppers has hit four batters through three starts this season.
The lanky, 6-foot-4 Texas right-hander had some of his best stuff Saturday, as he struck out a season high six batters, and touched 97 mph with his fastball in the early innings. Washington called it a "learning experience" for the reliever-turned-starter, and said it was a step forward.
Scheppers, with a short, competitive demeanor after the loss, said it's only about executing his pitches throughout a start and avoiding big innings, not about an educational experience.
"They gave me some run support, and I've got to be able to lock it down," he said. "It's just about keeping the crooked numbers off the board."
The Ranger bats gave Scheppers just his second lead of the young season by getting on the board first. Kevin Kouzmanoff lined an 0-1 pitch past the shortstop for an RBI single to give Texas a first-inning run for just the second time this season.
Kouzmanoff has now hit safely in all three of his games with the Rangers, and five consecutive major league games spanning 928 days.
Donnie Murphy got the bats going with a shot to the left-center field warning track to lead off the second inning. The first bunt hit of the season for Texas, off the bat of Leonys Martin, put runners on the corners before J.P. Arencibia rolled an RBI ground ball to short to give the Rangers a two-run advantage.
Arencibia plated the third Ranger run when he grounded into a double play with runners on first and third in the fourth inning. The catcher was not credited with a second RBI of the game on the play.
The Texas bats went dormant in the middle innings, as the Rangers went three-up, three-down in the fifth, sixth and seventh frames before the late-inning rally. Andrus represented the only baserunner in that span, and he was erased on a double play grounder by Rios.
Andrus’ single to right field in the fifth inning to give him an 11-game hitting streak to open the season. Andrus’s streak is the second-longest season-opening streak in club history behind Al Oliver’s 13-game streak to start the 1979 season.
Demi-god of on-base percentage Shin-Soo Choo didn't reach base Saturday, striking out five times. It was the first time Choo has struck out five times in a single game in his career. He entered the game with just seven strikeouts on the season.
The rubber match of the series is slated for 2:05 p.m. Sunday. Texas hasn’t lost a series to Houston since June of 2008.