The Rangers (76-67) have caught the Astros (77-67) in the loss column.
- You can say he wasn't his sharpest, or that he battled, or whatever; either way Cole Hamels' final line reads that he only surrendered 3 runs in 7 innings. You are going to take that every time out and feel OK about your chances. Along the way he scattered 7 hits (including a HR), walked 1, and hit 2 batters.
- The Rangers scored their first run in the bottom of the 2nd when, with two out and runners on 1st and 2nd, Rougned Odor lined a ball over CF Jake Marisnick's head, scoring Fielder. Houston did, however, manage to cut down the second run on a routine relay, comfortably nabbing Mike Napoli at the plate. The game was tied 1-1 heading into the 5th.
- In the top of the 5th, the Astros went P-6, double, balk, FC (scoring Marisnick), E-7*, putting men on 1st and 2nd with one out. After throwing what felt like a thousand high-leverage pitches from the stretch, Hamels got out of the jam by inducing a fielder's choice and a flyout, keeping the deficit at 1 run.
* In case you missed it, for the second game in a row -- in an apparent effort to increase offensive production from the LF spot in the order -- manager Jeff Banister started career C/1B/DH Mike Napoli in LF. Yesterday in Oakland, Nap didn't record any putouts; but tonight, with his first career chance coming on an innocuous Jose Altuve flare, it skipped off his glove and to the ground, prolonging Cole Hamel's labor on the hill.
I'm all for trying to find creative ways to improve an offense so susceptible to lefty pitching, but I don't think putting Napoli and his degenerative hips at a spacious position he's never played is the place to start. Not with so few games left in the regular season. With all the horses pitching for both teams this week, in what are the most important games at Globe Life Park since the Rays came in for Game 163 in 2013, run prevention has to be respected. Mike Napoli is still a strong specimen against lefties (.258/.371/.539, 164 wRC+), but he has absolutely no business being in left field.
- Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the 6th, the Rangers went F-7, single, F-7, and with two outs Mitch Moreland sliced an opposite field, go-ahead HR to give Texas its first lead of the game. It's Moreland's 19th of the season, and just his 4th against a LHP.
- The Astros tied the game in a grueling 7th and final inning for Cole Hamels. He finished the night at 114 pitches (76 strikes). In 55.2 IP since being acquired from the Phillies, Hamels sits at 48/16 (3:1) K/BB ratio, and a 4.04 ERA. His ERA was expected to take a hit from the league switch, but his .326 BABIP against since arriving in Arlington suggests bad luck has been working against him thus far.
- With the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the 8th, and Adrian Beltre on first, Prince Fielder unloaded a towering HR just out of reach of Marisnick's glove, giving the Rangers a 5-3 lead that ended up as the final. Shawn Tolleson locked down his 32nd save in 34 chances.
The first one is out of the way, but if they're all like this I don't have a damn clue how I'm supposed to make it through this week.
Tomorrow night Derek Holland faces off with Collin McHugh as the Rangers look for sole possession of first place in the American League West.