Rangers (78-67) dismantle Dallas Keuchel, Astros, to extend division lead

Behind a 6 run first -- headlined by two HRs -- the Rangers handed it to the second place Astros 14-3 on Wednesday night. The win is Texas's 4th in as many games, and assures them a series win against their in-state foe, as well as being in first place to start the weekend. 

Dallas Keuchel was chased in the 5th after serving up a season-high in runs (9), hits (11), and tied a season-high in HRs allowed (3). His league-leading 2.22 ERA rose to 2.56 by the time his night was through, and his streak of 40 consecutive starts going at least 6 IP is over. 

On the other hand, Martin Perez countered with one of his more efficient showings to date. In the biggest start of his abbreviated 2015 campaign, Perez completed 7 innings on just 91 pitches (62 strikes), allowing 1 ER on 9 hits. He walked 1 and struck out 3.

The offense was the story of the night, pumping out 14 runs on 16 hits -- including 5 HRs -- in route to decisive victory. Prince Fielder finished 3-5 with 2 HRs and 5 RBI and has violently, if only temporarily, broken out of his second half slump during the Houston series, going 8-13 with a walk, 3 HRs and 8 RBI. 

Mike Napoli went 2-3 with a crucial 3-run HR in the first, making it 4-0 Texas.

Rougned Odor went 2-3 with a HR and 2 runs scored. 

Shin-Soo Choo (3-4, BB), Adrian Beltre (2-4, BB) and Elvis Andrus (2-5) each recorded multi-hit games. 

Since writing what the Rangers had to do to make it to 88 wins, back when they held a 56-57 record, Texas is 22-10 (.686). There are 17 games left in the 2015 season, and the Rangers are up two games in the loss column over Houston, who figures to be its biggest competition down the stretch. The Angels just fell 5 games back with a loss in Seattle.

FanGraphs currently has the Rangers at 55.9% to win the division, and 82.8% of getting a postseason berth. It also has the Mariners still at 0.2% to win a wild card spot. 

ESPN has Houston's expected record at 84-62, with the Rangers at 71-74 -- a whopping 12.5 game difference between the two clubs, in theory. Yes, this is largely due to the fact that Houston's +91 run differential is second-best in the American League behind Toronto (+205), and over 100 runs better than the Rangers (-13), even after being outscored 25-11 in the first three games of the series. 

Tomorrow Colby Lewis starts for Texas as the club aims for the sweep.