ARLINGTON -- Rangers left-hander Alex Claudio saw manager Jeff Banister come out to the mound in the ninth inning and had a good idea of what was next.It was the climactic moment in the Rangers' 6-4 victory over Houston on Friday night. The Astros had the potential tying runs on
ARLINGTON -- Rangers left-hander Alex Claudio saw manager Jeff Banister come out to the mound in the ninth inning and had a good idea of what was next.
It was the climactic moment in the Rangers' 6-4 victory over Houston on Friday night. The Astros had the potential tying runs on base with two outs and Jose Altuve at the plate. The Rangers had right-hander Matt Bush warming in the bullpen to face the American League's leading hitter, and Claudio was ready to hand over the baseball.
"When I saw the manager, I felt pretty sure he was going to take me out," Claudio said.
Banister did not point to the bullpen right away as he normally does when he makes a pitching change. Instead, he went to the mound to talk to Claudio and ask him how he felt.
"I said, 'Let me get this guy out,'" Claudio said. "'I can get him out.'"
It wasn't an easy decision. Altuve had been 2-for-3 with a home run against Claudio and entered the game hitting .365, 45 points higher than anybody else in the AL.
The Rangers had led 6-0 after seven innings, but Houston scored four in the eighth and now had the potential go-ahead run at the plate.
"Getting Altuve to the plate, that's all you can really ask for," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.
Banister decided to stay with Claudio.
"A couple of different things," Banister said. "You look first at the body of work all year, plus the set of pitches against Altuve. We know Altuve hits [hard fastballs] well. In that situation, Claudio is our best ground-ball pitcher and our best strike-thrower. ... It was his game."
Claudio got ahead with two quick strikes, and then missed away with three straight pitches. That brought the count full, allowing the runners to move on the pitch.
It was a changeup down and in, and Altuve took it for strike three. He was not happy with the call by umpire Bill Welke.
"My view was ball, and then I came here and I looked and it was a strike, almost in the middle," Altuve said. "The way he was pitching, it was like everything away, away, away. Actually, after I saw the video, the catcher was set up away and he missed in.
"He was away, away and I was kind of like looking at everything away, and he threw me that one. I don't know if he meant to do it, but it was a really good pitch. I thought it was a ball, but it was a strike. Now tomorrow I have to apologize to the umpire."
Claudio, one of the more mild-mannered players in the Rangers' clubhouse, let out a roar and clenched his fists after the final out.
"It was good for me because he trusted me," Claudio said. "He trusted me and I got [Altuve] out."
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.