Murphy's sac fly enough as Perez shuts down Astros
Lefty allows five hits in eight innings and gets four double-play balls
ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitcher Martin Perez came up big on Sunday afternoon. So did the usual cast of characters the Rangers expected to be depending on this season: third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, catcher Robinson Chirinos and infielders Donnie Murphy and Josh Wilson.
Then there was reluctant reliever Alexi Ogando serving as the closer. With Joakim Soria unavailable after having pitched the previous two nights, Ogando finished it all off by retiring the side in order in the ninth.
Quick and economical, this bunch only needed two hours and 15 minutes to get the job done with a 1-0 victory over the Astros. Throw in Friday's victory and this is the first time in club history the Rangers have ever won two 1-0 games in a single series.
"It's big," Ogando said, "It shows that we're getting the job done."
Perez, while pitching eight scoreless innings, also created a little historical trivia by getting the Astros to hit into four double plays. Perez had five in his last start against the Red Sox on Tuesday in Boston and is the first Rangers pitcher ever to have at least four double plays turned behind him in consecutive starts. The last Major League pitcher to do so was Tommy John back in 1984.
"When you get runners on base, you have to stay tough and make your pitches," Perez said. "I'm not a power pitcher, I'm not trying to strike out a lot of guys. I'm trying to throw the ball down. I had a good changeup and a good [sinker] away. That's what happens when you throw all your pitches down."
Perez allowed five hits and three walks over eight innings while striking out two. He is the first Rangers pitcher with two wins and his team has won all three of his starts. That accounts for half of the Rangers six wins.
"He was outstanding," Chirinos said. "He's competing, he's going out and making pitches. He's throwing strikes and attacking hitters."
"I just felt like he mixed and matched pretty good and kept us off-balance and got into some predictable fastball counts and threw changeups," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "We were out in front and and he was able to induce some ground-ball double plays."
Chirinos helped out by throwing out two attempted basestealers. Between his throwing and the double plays turned behind Perez, the Astros did not get a baserunner into scoring position all afternoon.
The Rangers had their own offensive challenges facing Astros left-hander Brett Oberholtzer. The Rangers were already without third baseman Adrian Beltre, who was placed on the disabled list before the game because of a strained left quad muscle. They also lost shortstop Elvis Andrus on Sunday afternoon after just two at-bats when he was ejected by home plate umpire Alan Porter for arguing balls and strikes in the third inning.
But Wilson and Murphy helped the Rangers break through for their only run in the bottom of the sixth. Oberholtzer had retired 11 straight hitters going into the inning before Wilson led off with a single. Shin-Soo Choo, who had struck out in six of his previous seven at-bats, followed with a single up the middle, moving Wilson to third.
That brought up Murphy, who came off the bench after Andrus got tossed, and he put the Rangers ahead with a sacrifice fly to left.
"My last four years in the National League, I have been coming off the bench a lot," Murphy said. "I'm used to that. I'm prepared no matter what."
Wilson and Murphy are hitting a combined .277 with seven RBIs through the Rangers' first 12 games. They have combined for as many RBIs as Prince Fielder and Beltre.
"Those two guys have been solid up the middle and have done a heckuva job defensively," manager Ron Washington said.
The Rangers were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and have just three hits in their last 40 at-bats in those situations. They had just one home run in the series and have five on the season. They have yet to hit more than one home run in a game.
But the pitching made it stand up, first by Perez and then by Ogando. He retired three straight hitters in the ninth inning for his first save since Aug. 3-4, 2012 and the fourth of his career.
"Coming in and shutting down the fire like that, it's exciting," Ogando said. "It's a big part of the game. I like to compete so if they want to put me in that position … I like it."
Right now the Rangers are doing whatever it takes to takes to win games and Ogando as the closer seems to fit right in with the rest of their contingency plans.