Rangers let Astros escape in Houston
Tepesch is dominant into sixth inning, but bullpen falters
HOUSTON -- Wednesday was just an all-around bad day for the Rangers. After getting the difficult news that they'll probably be without pitchers Matt Harrison and Martin Perez for the rest of the year and beyond, the Rangers went out and let a four-run lead slip away against the Astros.
Matt Dominguez singled home the winning run off Rangers reliever Nick Martinez in the ninth inning to give the Astros a 5-4 victory at Minute Maid Park. The Rangers led, 4-0, after five innings before letting this one get away despite having their most effective setup relievers on the mound.
The Rangers have now lost two straight to the Astros and are 20-21. They haven't been under .500 this late in the season since finishing 79-83 at the end of 2008.
Martinez took the loss by giving up the game-winning hit. But just as damaging was Jason Frasor giving up his first home run since July 26, 2013. Frasor had made 38 appearances without allowing a homer until rookie George Springer tied the game with a two-run shot in the seventh.
"Right down the middle," Frasor said. "I tried to go away and the ball was right down the middle."
"They just got us," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "That's all I can say. It just got away from us. I'm man enough to say they just beat us."
Martinez entered the game in the eighth inning having not allowed a run in 10 1/3 innings since being moved to the bullpen. He retired the side in order in the eighth and struck out Springer to start the ninth.
Dexter Fowler then got the Astros' rally started by ripping a wicked grounder past first baseman Prince Fielder for a single and Martinez followed that by walking Jason Castro. Dominguez, after working the count full, then crushed one into the right-center-field gap well beyond right fielder Alex Rios for the walk-off hit.
"That walk, and I left the ball up on that last pitch," Martinez said. "It was a good pitch to drive. I missed with my location, and that's what happens."
Rangers starter Nick Tepesch, called up before the game from Triple-A Round Rock, went 5 1/3 innings and allowed one run on two hits and three walks. He struck out eight, tied for the second most in his 18 Major League starts, but he also threw 104 pitches.
"I was happy with it, but too many pitches and not aggressive enough in the zone early in the counts," Tepesch said. "Three walks are too many."
Tepesch was going up against Scott Feldman, the Astros' Opening Day starter who allowed four runs over five innings. Feldman threw seven scoreless innings against the Rangers in April and retired the side in order in the first on Wednesday night.
Then Rios broke through in the second inning with a one-out home run, his third of the season. The Rangers made it 2-0 in the third on consecutive one-out singles by Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre and Fielder.
Andrus, who now has an 11-game hitting streak, also got the Rangers going with a leadoff double in the fifth and scored on a single by Beltre. Fielder's double to left brought Beltre home.
Tepesch, who allowed his only two hits in the first inning, had retired 13 of 15 batters going into the sixth inning. Both batters reached on walks. He also retired Springer on a line drive to start the sixth but then walked Fowler. That's when Washington went to the bullpen.
"Tepesch had a really good mix," Washington said. "He did a really good job. You can't ask for more than that. He got us into the sixth inning and we had the pieces in the bullpen we wanted. We just didn't shut it down."
Washington brought left-hander Aaron Poreda in to face the middle of the Astros' order. Poreda had not allowed a run in his first nine appearances while holding opponents to a .185 batting average, but he wasn't that effective in this outing.
Poreda started off by walking Castro, a left-handed hitter who entered the game hitting .212 against lefties. Dominguez then grounded a single to left to load the bases and pinch-hitter Jesus Guzman singled to center to drive home a run. Chris Carter then golfed a popup down the left-field line that fell between three fielders for another run-scoring single.
Washington then brought in Frasor, who struck out Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Villar to end the inning.
"It's such an adrenaline rush when you strand those runners," Frasor said. "But then you sit on the bench for a while and try to keep the adrenaline and the intensity ... I've done it so many times. You try to psyche yourself up and be aggressive, but I didn't execute pitches."