The medium-deep fly ball to left field may not be the most exciting play in baseball, but it was the difference in a 5-4 Rangers win over the Astros in Arlington Wednesday.
A Mitch Moreland single and two walks loaded the bases for Elvis Andrus, who lifted the game’s final pitch into left field for a walk-off sacrifice fly off of Houston's Chia-Jen Lo. Adam Rosales, who pinch-ran for Moreland, slid headfirst across home plate to score the winning run.
Andrus drove in two runs without recording a hit in the ballgame.
It was smooth sailing into the eighth inning as the Rangers led by two runs with the back end of the bullpen on the bump.
But a rare meltdown by Tanner Scheppers added drama to a contest between the AL West’s first place and last place teams.
With two outs in that eighth inning, Scheppers surrendered two singles, threw two wild pitches, and hit two batters to score two Astros and tie the game. The second hit batsman was Max Stassi, who took a fastball off the helmet, giving him his first major league RBI.
The game was tied twice after the Astros gained an early 1-0 lead.
A home run put the Astros on the board first for the second consecutive night. Wednesday night, it was Jason Castro who sent a Derek Holland pitch over the right field fence to lead off the second inning.
The Rangers offense got going in the bottom of the third inning with a Craig Gentry leadoff home run to left, just his second long ball of the year. With two outs, Ian Kinsler singled and scored on an Adrian Beltre single to left field, on which left fielder Robbie Grossman bobbled the ball.
Gentry walked to lead off the fifth, and eventually scored on an Ian Kinsler frozen rope to center field that made it 3-1 in favor of Texas. Gentry was involved in three of the Rangers’ runs in the ballgame.
A perfectly-executed suicide squeeze bunt by Elvis Andrus scored Gentry to put the Rangers ahead by two runs after seven innings. Gentry reached on an error and advanced to third on a Leonys Martin sacrifice bunt.
Holland’s effort was aided by some impressive defense in the sixth inning. Adrian Beltre sacrificed his body to stop a smash to third by Grossman. Gentry added a leaping catch in left field with two runners aboard to end the inning.
Holland didn’t walk a batter until the sixth, but walked three of his final five batters in the sixth and seventh innings. Joakim Soria inherited a no-out, bases-loaded situation after Holland lost command of the strike zone.
The Astros scratched out one run on a double play ground ball, but Soria quelled the threat in the seventh.
The run went against Holland, who finished with 6-plus innings pitched and just the two runs on four Houston hits.
Alex Rios ran his way into a tie for fourth in the American League in stolen bases with his 30th swiped bag of the season in the sixth inning. The Rangers have three of the top eight stolen base leaders in the AL. Andrus ranks third with 34 stolen bases, and Martin’s 27 steals ranks eighth.
Joe Nathan earned his fourth win of the season as he pitched a scoreless ninth inning in a tie ballgame.
The win gives the Rangers a 14-2 record against the Astros in 2013.
The Rangers have won 18 of their last 22 games, and their last 16 games in which they score four or more runs. The win gives the Rangers a two-and-a-half game lead over the Oakland Athletics in the AL West, as Oakland lost to Seattle earlier Wednesday.
The Rangers have Thursday off before traveling to Chicago for a series against the White Sox.