A couple of bizarre plays helped the Rangers score two runs in the top of the 10th inning, snapping Texas’ nine-game losing streak at Minute Maid Park with a 6-5 win over the Astros on Tuesday night.
The Rangers took advantage of a “go-ahead” balk and two Astros throwing errors in the 10th to earn their first win in three extra-inning games this year, all on the road. But there was nothing bizarre about how the Rangers got the game into extra innings.
Going into the ninth, the Rangers were trailing 4-3 going after Michael Brantley’s three-run run home run off the foul pole in the seventh had put the Astros ahead. But Elvis Andrus, activated off the injured list on Tuesday, hit a 3-1 pitch from Astros reliever Ryan Pressly into the Crawford Boxes in left field for a game-tying home run.
It was Andrus’ first home run of the season. The Rangers were 0-20 when trailing after eight innings before Tuesday night.
“There are a lot of demons in this ballpark,” manager Chris Woodward said. “A big one, especially for [Andrus]. It was a huge lift for our team after the home run off the foul pole. That took the wind out of our sails a little bit. In this ballpark, it happens a lot of the time. For Elvis to say, ‘I gotcha,’ and tie the game and hand it off to our best pitchers was really cool.”
The game stayed tied in the bottom of the ninth only because third baseman Isiah Kiner-Falefa, with a runner at second base, made a brilliant diving stop on George Springer’s hard grounder. That took away a potential game-winning hit.
“It did save the game,” Woodward said. “He's been doing that all year for us … just shows you how athletic he is and how fearless the kid is.”
Left-hander Blake Taylor pitched the 10th for the Astros, with Scott Heineman as the automatic runner at second base to start the inning. Shin-Soo Choo moved him to third with a ground ball to the right side.
That brought up Kiner-Falefa, who fell behind 1-2 in the count and fouled off four straight pitches. At that point, third-base coach Tony Beasley told Heineman to fake a break for home and try to draw a balk. That’s exactly what happened when Taylor flinched.
“Those are things I like to do,” Heineman said. “Kiner was having a great at-bat, the infield was in, they knew I was going on contact. We were just trying to stir it up. A lefty, kind of blinded, can’t see me, maybe get him to flinch a little bit. Full credit to Beasley, he called the play.”
“I was kind of hoping to hit it 80 rows deep,” Woodward said.
Gallo did not. He bunted the ball in the front of the plate, trying for a base hit. Catcher Martín Maldonado threw wildly to first, allowing Kiner-Falefa to come around to score.
“They shifted him, and Nick Solak is one of our better hitters on deck,” Woodward said. “Puts a couple of runners on and puts some pressure on. I didn’t mind it. Obviously, it worked out -- not the way we expected it to, but we ended up scoring a run.”
The run proved critical. Closer Rafael Montero, also having to start the inning with a runner on second, gave up an RBI single to Brantley before closing it out for his seventh save. Jonathan Hernández pitched two scoreless innings to get the victory, and Woodward was especially pleased with the work of Jordan Lyles.
After Luis García opened with a scoreless inning, Lyles took over and held the Astros to one run over five innings. He allowed a couple of infield hits to start the seventh, which ended up scoring on Brantley’s two-out home run. But Lyles said this was his best game this season.
“Results-wise, everything didn't turn out,” Lyles said. “I felt like we threw it better numbers-wise with some of the kind of hits that were given. I think, overall, we did a good job. Definitely something to build on.”