ARLINGTON -- After dropping a pair of one-run games to the Rangers -- and extending their losing streak at Globe Life Park to 12 in the process -- the Astros found themselves in another tenuous situation in the late innings on Wednesday night.The Astros were nursing a two-run lead with
ARLINGTON -- After dropping a pair of one-run games to the Rangers -- and extending their losing streak at Globe Life Park to 12 in the process -- the Astros found themselves in another tenuous situation in the late innings on Wednesday night.
The Astros were nursing a two-run lead with one out in the eighth when the Rangers put a pair of batters on base against lefty Tony Sipp, bringing up Elvis Andrus as the potential go-ahead run. Right-hander Pat Neshek entered and got Andrus to hit into an inning-ending double play, then Will Harris slammed the door in the ninth to save a 3-1 win that was as good for the Astros' psyche as it was for the momentum they'd had coming into the series.
"Obviously, we're thrilled to get a win here," manager A.J. Hinch said. "This has been a tough team for us matching up. There's no reason to celebrate unless we can start to back it up a little bit more. Certainly a sense of relief to get a win after a couple tough losses."
Neshek, who's been used as a weapon against right-handed hitters, has quietly pitched well, posting a 1.46 ERA in 15 outings since May 1 after having a 5.14 ERA in April. He hasn't allowed a run in 14 of his last 15 outings.
"It's the matchup we were looking for, not necessarily the situation," Hinch said. "You've got traffic all over the place, and he came in with a big pitch and got Andrus for the double play. Really looking for him to get at least one out there. Getting two was a total benefit and gave them a chance to get out of the inning, which for us in this ballpark, you don't want to give any extra outs away, so getting two for one is a bonus."
Harris pitched around a one-out single in the ninth for his second save in two chances this season. He and Ken Giles are splitting closing duties in the wake of Sunday's decision by Hinch to remove Luke Gregerson from the role.
Harris picked up his fourth career save with a perfect inning on Sunday against Oakland and hasn't allowed a run in his last 26 appearances, covering 26 1/3 innings. That's the third-longest streak by an Astros reliever in club history, putting him just shy of Dave Smith's record of 27 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, set in 1987.
"It didn't matter what spot I put him in, whether it was the bases-loaded seventh-inning spot or an eighth-inning role. Now his last two ninth innings have been pretty impressive," Hinch said. "It's a comforting feeling with him on the mound. As calm as he is, he's in control of his stuff, and certainly the stuff he throws to the hitter is pretty electric."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.