A four-run eighth inning propelled the Rangers to a 9-5, comeback win over the Astros Friday night.
It’s rare for the defining moment in a Major League Baseball game to be a pair of walks to the eighth and ninth hitters in a given lineup.
But that was the case at Minute Maid Park as the Rangers came away with a 7-4 victory in Houston.
With two outs and runners on first and third, rookie Joey Butler worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases. Jurickson Profar then battled through an eight-pitch at-bat, allowing the go-ahead run to trot home.
Five Astro relievers pitched in the top half of the eighth, surrendering four walks.
Leonys Martin provided what would be the decisive hit with a two-out, two-RBI double down the right field line that brought home David Murphy and Butler. Murphy was intentionally walked earlier in the inning.
The Astros got on the board first when Jason Castro crushed a 445-foot home run deep into the second deck in right field off of Matt Garza.
The first Ranger scoring opportunity was created in the fourth inning when a walk and two singles loaded the bases.
For the third consecutive game, the Rangers’ first run came on a sacrifice fly, as Jeff Baker smashed a line-drive to center fielder Brandon Barnes. Craig Gentry followed with a successful suicide squeeze bunt to plate Adrian Beltre.
But Houston had an answer. The third lead change in four innings resulted from three consecutive Astro doubles leading off the bottom half of the inning. L.J. Hoes, Jose Altuve and Jason Castro did the damage for Houston.
The Astros, who ranked no. 25 in the majors in runs scored entering Friday’s game, struck again in the fifth when Brandon Barnes sent a 2-2 pitch over the left-center field wall at Minute Maid Park to make the Houston lead 4-2.
Then the Ranger bats surged.
The Ranger rookies cut the deficit to one in the seventh inning. Butler hit his second double of two doubles on the night – also his first two major league hits – with one out before Profar lined an RBI single to center to bring Butler home.
Ian Kinsler started the Ranger eighth with the first of four walks in the inning. Kinsler swiped second base and scored when Beltre looped an RBI single to center field.
Beltre’s RBI single gave him an eight-game hitting streak against the Astros, during which he is batting .438 (14-for-32).
The Rangers kept the offensive onslaught going in the ninth inning, tacking on two more runs. Kinsler scored again on a ground ball back to the pitcher, and Murphy found the left-center gap with an RBI double.
Matt Garza didn’t allow a single until the sixth inning Friday, but was pegged with four Astro runs in his seven innings of work. Garza finished with eight strikeouts and just one walk.
Garza threw 107 pitches (72 strikes) in the win.
Tanner Scheppers worked into a bases-loaded jam with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Neal Cotts entered the game to strike out pinch hitter Marc Krauss on a 2-2 fastball, ending an hour-long inning in which the clubs combined for 80 pitches from seven different pitchers.
Cotts returned to the mound for the ninth inning, surrendering one run in the frame.
With the win, the Rangers kept pace with the Oakland Athletics atop the AL West. The Rangers play the second game of a four-game set in Houston Saturday night.
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