It was a quick, two hour and fifteen minute, defensive game in Arlington, as the Rangers defeated the Astros 1-0, and earned their first divisional series win.
The games sole run came in the sixth, after back-to-back singles from Josh Wilson and Shin-Soo Choo put runners on the corners with no outs. Donnie Murphy capitalized on the opportunity, and hit a sacrifice fly to deep left that allowed Wilson to score.
Other than this one key sequence, the Rangers’ bats continued to be unproductive as they had five hits and struck out six times against Astros’ starter Brett Oberholtzer, tying his career-high in strikeouts.
Elvis Andrus had two strikeouts and his eleven game hitting streak was snapped when he was ejected from the game in the third, after arguing the call with home plate umpire Alan Porter. Murphy then came in the game for Andrus, which ended up working out in the long run.
“As soon as I saw him point at him, I automatically threw off the hoodie and just got loose” said Murphy. “But it’s always nice when you don’t start the game just to come in there and contribute like that, especially on a 1-0 win.”
The Rangers’ success today was due largely in part to the guys who weren’t originally supposed to be starters. The underdogs of the season have consistently produced, while many of the big contract players have struggled at the plate. Murphy and Wilson have both seen plenty of playing time with Jurickson Profar on the DL, and Murphy is tied for the team high in RBI’s while Wilson has made many key plays with his glove.
“Murphy, you know him and Josh Wilson have been doing a great job” said Rangers’ manager Ron Washington. “He came up big there with that sacrifice fly. The key for us it to try and keep them in a position where they can be successful. You know those two guys have been a savior up the middle, just to see that they play the heck out of some defense, and I love that.”
Additionally, it was announced today that third baseman Adrian Beltre has been added to the 15 day DL, retroactive to April 9. Beltre will be able to return on April 25, but until then, Kevin Kouzmanoff, who has hit in every game since being brought up from AAA Round Rock, will continue to receive most of the playing time at third.
“I’ve been here done that, you know?” said Kouzmanoff. “But it’s good to be back. With a good group of guys, who play hard and then win, it’s good to be here. Adrian’s shoes are big ones to fill, but I’m going to do the best I can.”
Starting pitcher Martin Perez pitched eight complete innings, though he thinks he could have gone nine, and continued to use the double play to his advantage, as no Astros were able reach second base during the game. Perez isn’t a “strikeout pitcher”, in fact he only had two through eight innings today. But as long as he continues to keep the opposing team from even making it to second base, that shouldn’t be a problem.
“His forte is keeping the ball down” said Washington. “He had a good change up today, a good breaking ball. He was finding his fastball down in the zone where he wanted it and he was able to make pitches when he had to. That was the reason for the double plays and he’s just continuing to grow. Once again, we’re just watching that right in front of our eyes.”
Another factor in today’s defense was Robinson Chirinos exceptional performance from behind the plate. Two Astros tried to steal second, and neither were successful, as Chirinos threw them both out and further backed up claims that he should be the Rangers’ starting catcher over J.P Arencibia.
This series was the first time in Rangers history that a series was won off of two 1-0 games. It worked against the Astros, but as the team heads into a four game series against the Seattle Mariners, the offense is going to need to step up to the plate, and give the pitchers a little more cushion room.
Colby Lewis will get his first start of the season tomorrow, as the Rangers take on the Mariners. Game time is slated for 7:05 p.m. CT.