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5-run 1st, Gallo's moonshot power Rangers' win

Sampson sees improvement in 2nd start of year for Texas
@Sullivan_Ranger
April 21, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Rangers starter Adrian Sampson lasted only 4 1/3 innings against the Astros on Saturday night. That marked the 11th time in 19 games that Texas starters have failed to cover five innings. So, it would be easy to suggest the Rangers' 9-4 victory at Globe Life Park was

ARLINGTON -- Rangers starter Adrian Sampson lasted only 4 1/3 innings against the Astros on Saturday night. That marked the 11th time in 19 games that Texas starters have failed to cover five innings.

So, it would be easy to suggest the Rangers' 9-4 victory at Globe Life Park was another case of their offense overcoming their latest starting pitching woes. Texas is 6-5 when its starter doesn’t go five innings, after going 9-33 in such games last season.

But there was more to the Rangers' sixth win in their last eight games than a relentless offense tagging Astros starter Gerrit Cole for a career-high nine runs over 4 1/3 innings.

The Rangers won this game because of their offense, but also because Sampson held the Astros scoreless through the first four innings while his teammates built an early 6-0 lead against Cole.

“He did a great job,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “You can’t look at it as I pulled him out early because I was worried. He pitched really well today. He clearly outpitched their guy. It was great for us.”

The Rangers scored five runs off Cole in the first inning. That equaled the total number of runs they scored for Sampson in his four starts for the Rangers last season.

Shin-Soo Choo led off the first with a double and scored on a single by Danny Santana. Walks to Elvis Andrus and Nomar Mazara loaded the bases, and Asdrubal Cabrera brought home two with a pop-fly single down the left-field line. Logan Forsythe followed with an RBI single, and a fifth run scored on a two-out error by shortstop Carlos Correa.

“I was really proud of our guys sticking to a game plan and making their guy work, because he is one of the best pitchers in baseball,” Woodward said. “We made him work, frustrated him. He obviously won’t forget. He’s going to come after us every time he pitches against us. I was just proud of our guys digging in there and having great at-bats.”

Cole thought he might have been tipping his pitches.

“I felt like they were on a lot of stuff in the first inning, especially their takes and some of their pitches they chose to swing at,” Cole said. “I think they were maybe a little bit of a step ahead of me in terms of maybe being able to identify what pitch I was throwing.”

Joey Gallo's eighth home run of the season made it 6-0 in the third. The slugger's fourth homer in five games was a 433-foot moonshot that had a launch angle of 35 degrees, per Statcast.

Meanwhile, Sampson kept the Astros off the board through four by holding them to 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and getting a crucial double play in the fourth. He had better command of his sinker than his last start, keeping it down in the strike zone.

“I was getting ahead, sticking to the game plan,” Sampson said. “[Catcher Isiah Kiner-Falefa] called a great game back there. I was executing pitches early. Worked on some things from the last start to this, and they came into play.”

Sampson only needed to get three outs in the fifth to be in line for his first Major League win, but he couldn’t get there. Josh Reddick led off with a single and Max Stassi, the Astros' No. 8 hitter, hit a two-run home run to cut Houston's deficit to 6-2.

Jake Marisnick then bunted for a hit and George Springer grounded a single through the left side. Jose Altuve grounded into a force at third for the first out, and Woodward decided that was it for Sampson, who left after 64 pitches (40 strikes) and Shawn Kelley took over.

“Obviously, third time around, the guys coming up, it was more about winning the game today and making sure we stopped them moving forward,” Woodward said. “That team can rally like no other. They feed off each other and they can string a lot of hits together in a hurry.”

Kelley got out of the jam quickly by getting Alex Bregman to ground into an inning-ending double play.

“Every time you win a game it’s satisfaction, regardless if I get a win or not,” Sampson said. “The goal is to have the Rangers win, and we got that done tonight. It’s whatever the manager wants to do at that point. If they score some more runs, the momentum could swing. I understand that.”

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.