It looked like a bright spot on a very dark day for the Rangers, for five innings. But five Astros crossed the plate in the final four innings, capped by a Matt Dominguez walk-off, RBI double off the right field fence to deliver a five-knuckled punch straight to the Texas Rangers organization.
The middle of the Ranger order produced four runs against former Ranger Scott Feldman, who boasted a 1.93 ERA coming into the game, through five innings.
Nick Tepesch did his best to make Rangers fans forget about the terrible news from earlier Wednesday by battling for 5.1 innings in his season debut, with eight strikeouts and just one run to his ledger. Jason Frasor even came in a recorded back-to-back strikeouts to leave the bases loaded after two Houston runners came home in the sixth.
It looked like the quintessential relief outing, until Astro rookie sensation George Springer sent a no-doubt, two-run blast into the left field seats to tie the game.
Frasor said he didn’t carry over the same intensity from the sixth to the seventh innings. There was a pitching change during the top of the seventh.
“I’ve done that so many times, you try to psyche yourself into going back out there and being aggressive,” Frasor told Fox Sports Southwest’s Dana Larson. “I just didn’t execute my pitches in that second inning.”
Nick Martinez, who has been the epitome of the unlikely hero archetype both in the rotation and as a reliever (and who was supposed to spend this season in Frisco) recorded a three-up, three-down eighth inning before getting himself into trouble in the ninth. Dominguez sent a 3-2 pitch 370 feet to right field to end the game.
“They just got us,” manager Ron Washington told Larson after the game. “That’s all I can say. They earned it.”
Texas got RBI hits from Alex Rios, Prince Fielder, and Adrian Beltre. Rios started the scoring with a line shot, solo home run to left field.
Fielder hit a third-inning, seeing-eye ground ball through the overshift that has eaten up so many of his grounders this season for an RBI single. Beltre reached out for a pitch that couldn’t have been less than a foot out of the strike zone, poking a broken-bat blooper into center.
Fielder struck again in the fifth with an opposite-field double to plate the fourth and final run for the Rangers.
And at that point, it all looked so encouraging for the Rangers. It looked like the perfect triumph to resuscitate a fanbase and organization downtrodden with injury news, for five innings.
Tepesch threw first pitch strikes to just four of the first 13 batters he faced, but got ahead of seven consecutive batters before walking his final hitter, Dexter Fowler. Tepesch threw 104 total pitches in his 2014 debut, allowing just two hits.
But the bullpen would give up nine hits and five runs. Salt, meet wounds.
The Rangers’ record fell below .500 for the first time since April 14, and they lost a series in Houston for the first time since June of 2008.
Texas has an off day Thursday before beginning a three-game home series with the Toronto Blue Jays Friday.