Elvis gives Rangers walk-off win against Astros
Ninth-inning sac fly secures three-game sweep in Arlington
ARLINGTON -- Derek Holland was cruising going into the seventh inning on Wednesday night. He had a two-run lead, he had allowed one run on three hits and a walk, and he had thrown just 80 pitches. Then Jason Castro, leading off the inning, smashed a line drive up the middle that smacked Holland in the forearm.
"It scared the ... out of me," Holland said. "I tried to calm myself down and wasn't able to do that."
Instead, one line drive changed everything. Holland's night quickly unraveled and the Rangers almost let this one get away. But some superb relief work by Joakim Soria and Jason Frasor kept things under control and Elvis Andrus ended it with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Rangers a 5-4 victory and a sweep of their three-game series with the Astros.
"A big win ... a nice little comeback win," said Craig Gentry, who hit his second home run of the year and scored three runs from the bottom of the order.
"We just kept battling and things fell into place in the ninth inning," manager Ron Washington said.
The Rangers have now won 14 of 16 games against the Astros and still have one more three-game series against them at the Ballpark in Arlington in the final week of the season. The Rangers have also won 18 of their last 22 games overall and are 2 1/2 games ahead of the Athletics in the American West.
The game was 4-4 when the Rangers came through in the ninth against Astros rookie reliever Chia-Jen Lo, who had not allowed a run in seven appearances since being called up from Double-A Corpus Christi.
Mitch Moreland led off with a single up the middle and was replaced by pinch-runner Adam Rosales. Moreland had already replaced Jeff Baker so Rosales would have stayed in the game at first base if the game went into extra innings. But Washington wanted the extra speed on the bases. Jurickson Profar went up to drop a sacrifice bunt, but Lo walked him instead. Gentry fouled out but Leonys Martin drew a walk to load the bases.
"We wanted to make sure (Lo) threw strikes and we did a good job making him get the ball down," Washington said. "If you chase that high fastball, you're not going to have any success so you have to make him get it down."
That brought up Andrus, and the Astros brought in left fielder Robbie Grossman to form a five-man infield. Andrus hit a high fly to left -- not too deep -- and Rosales beat the throw from Brandon Barnes, who had moved over from center field, to score the winning run.
Andrus had already brought home one run in the seventh inning with a squeeze bunt. Washington thought about it a second time but decided to let Andrus swing. Andrus saw the five-man infield and knew he had to get the ball in the air.
"I thought I'm not going to swing at anything down," Andrus said. "He was the one under pressure to make the pitch."
Joe Nathan, who pitched a scoreless ninth, earned the victory. Holland has just one victory since the All-Star break despite a 2.61 ERA in seven starts. In the clubhouse afterward, Holland said he should be fine from Castro's line drive and won't miss a start. But he wasn't fine immediately after the play.
Holland, after Castro was safe with a single, got a medical visit on the mound and assured one and all that he was fine. Then he walked Carter and Matt Dominguez to load the bases and Washington brought in Soria.
"After I got hit, the wheels came off," Holland said. "I couldn't settle down. The adrenaline took over and I started yanking everything."
Soria got Max Stassi to ground into a double play. A run scored but Soria, after walking pinch-hitter Brett Wallace, closed out the inning by getting Marwin Gonzalez on a slow grounder to Beltre at third base.
"It's a tough situation, bases loaded and nobody out," Soria said. "But you face it like normal and nobody on base. You just try to make good pitches and get ahead of hitters."
The squeeze by Andrus made it 4-2 after seven and Tanner Scheppers took over in the eighth. He got two quick outs on a double-play ball before Jose Altuve flared a single to right and Jason Castro walked. Chris Carter's high pop dropped in shallow left to score one run and Scheppers then hit the next two batters -- Dominguez and Stassi -- to force in a run.
That's when Frasor took over and struck out Brett Wallace to end the inning. The clutch work by the veteran setup relievers put the Rangers in position to win it in the ninth.
"They're certainly a pretty good [security] blanket," Washington said. "They have been in tough situations and they know how to handle it. It's very comforting. You can't say enough about experience. That's exactly what they bring."