HOUSTON -- The Rangers started hot against the Astros on Saturday night, jumping ahead to a one-run lead in the first inning at Minute Maid Park. They didn’t score again until the top of the eighth inning, but did so with a bang to make it interesting.
Texas scored four runs -- highlighted by a Joey Gallo homer -- to energize a comeback attempt before falling just short and extending the losing streak to five games with a 6-5 loss.
“There was obviously a lot of fight,” manager Chris Woodward said. “I thought that there were a couple innings where, I wouldn't say we got unlucky, but we had a chance to push things through. Obviously that eighth inning was a ton of good at-bats in a row, just came up short. At least we gave ourselves a chance.”
The Rangers' offense struggled with runners in scoring position for most of the game before they broke it open with the four-run eighth. Texas’ hitters were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position, stranding seven on base.
Gallo’s 3-for-4 night snapped an 0-for-15 skid on the Rangers' road trip between San Francisco and Houston. Nick Solak also reached base in every plate appearance, going 2-for-2 with two walks on the night.
“It's a good sign for us,” Woodward said. “We need Joey to be good for our offense to be as good as we want it to be."
Gallo, who Woodward has described as a streaky hitter, has put the ball in play a lot more since moving down to the No. 4 spot in the lineup as opposed to the three-hole where he started the season. Sandwiched by Nate Lowe and Adolis García in the lineup, Gallo has gotten more pitches to hit as the two emerged as RBI leaders on the squad.
“I think it was kind of a strange period for me. At the beginning I wasn't getting that many strikes,” Gallo said. “... I think I was a little still in the tentative mode where I thought I'm not gonna see a lot of strikes and then [pitchers] started to get to me quick. Now I have to be a little bit more aggressive. They're gonna throw me some more strikes and I’m gonna start seeing more pitches to hit.”
Both Woodward and Gallo said he’s more comfortable lower, either in the four- or five-hole, because he likes to see how the game plays out and the pitcher works a bit before stepping into the box. Gallo said he’s more of a strategic hitter in that way.
Woodward said he’s not against moving Gallo back up to the No. 3 spot in the lineup if he stays hot, but he’s been just as effective hitting cleanup at the moment.
“It's just preference, I guess,” Gallo said. “I like the game to fold out a little bit more in front of me. For me, it's more about an approach. I've always hit fourth or fifth and I got used to that. I feel like when I'm hitting third, I'm up to hit so quick and it's weird. It's a little bit uncomfortable, but like I said I'll do whatever that team asked me to do.”
The five-game losing skid unravels all the work done at the beginning of the month when the Rangers got back to .500 on May 9. Woodward said he isn’t worried about it spiraling further, despite this being Texas’ longest losing streak of the season.
“I know these guys are gonna fight,” Woodward said. “That's the one thing I trust, the staff and these players trust each other, so we’ve just got to play a little bit better. I think there's a couple of things that we could have done from the beginning [against Houston]. It was nice to obviously get a couple of big hits there at the end to get back in the game.”