HOUSTON -- The Rangers knew it was bound to be a low-scoring affair on both sides coming into Minute Maid Park and facing off against Astros ace Justin Verlander.
“Those are the games you wish you win,” said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. “We had our chances. [Gray] was battling a little bit of execution, the pitch counts were running up a little bit early on, but he settled down and the stuff showed up good. He gave us six [innings] and only gave up two [runs], that’s usually a pretty good day, and it could have been better, actually. ... Overall, it was good to see him out there.”
Though Astros hitters battled through a lot of long at-bats, Gray’s six-inning outing (94 pitches) was his longest of the season as he kept the Rangers within striking distance. Texas trailed just 2-0 when the right-hander left the game and had a chance to tie it up in each of the last two innings.
An eighth-inning rally from the Rangers fell short and was halted after Adolis García was thrown out attempting to steal third base with one out after knocking in Corey Seager for Texas' lone RBI of the game.
Woodward has consistently given players the freedom to make decisions on base-stealing depending on what they see from the pitch or catcher, so while it was not a designed steal, he emphasized multiple times that he loved the aggressiveness from the outfielder.
“There’s just a couple of things to talk through there with [García],” Woodward said. “He’s just got to make sure he’s got a little bit of a bigger primary lead, because [Astros reliever Héctor Neris] was giving them time to steal. ... That's basically a free base if he gets a big enough lead. Neris wasn't even paying any attention to him.”
The Rangers (10) totaled more hits than the Astros (6), but they were unable to capitalize with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners on base. Both Verlander and Gray gave up six hits each.
Gray struggled with his command early in the game, allowing the first two runners to reach base on a jam-shot single by Jose Siri and a walk issued to Michael Brantley, but he worked out of the first inning, allowing just one run.
Gray doubled down through most of his outing, but the second run he yielded -- which would ultimately be the winning run -- was scored on a wild pitch that just got past catcher Jonah Heim.
“Obviously, that ball to the backstop is on me,” Gray said. “I don't know where that came from, it was just a yanked fastball. ... I'll tip my cap to [the Astros]. They put the ball in play, and they got rewarded for it. I'm just hopefully looking to miss more bats next time. I think that's going to be the key.”
Gray, who has dealt with blisters and a knee sprain this season, has now gone three straight starts without health issues of any kind, which he sees as the ultimate win for him.
Although he struck out just four Houston batters, Gray induced 11 swings and misses and limited his walks to two despite his lack of execution early on. Woodward noted that his line against a lineup like the Astros, who rank third in the American League in both OPS and slugging percentage, is a good game to build off.
“I’m still just really, really searching for that really good game,” Gray said. “It didn't happen tonight, but we did battle and hold them. ... I think there's a lot of good to build off of. It's not the way I wanted it to go, but it's not something to kind of turn your head and not look at. There's definitely a lot of positive carryovers.”