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Springer, Astros end Rangers' winning streak

September 4, 2016

ARLINGTON -- The Astros made sure they didn't come up empty-handed in their three-game series against the Rangers on Sunday afternoon. They held off a comeback and prevented a sweep from the American League West leaders with a 7-6 victory in front of a sold-out Globe Life Park crowd to

ARLINGTON -- The Astros made sure they didn't come up empty-handed in their three-game series against the Rangers on Sunday afternoon. They held off a comeback and prevented a sweep from the American League West leaders with a 7-6 victory in front of a sold-out Globe Life Park crowd to keep pace in the AL Wild card hunt, ending the Rangers' seven-game winning streak.
Houston picked up a game on the Orioles for the second AL Wild Card spot and trail Baltimore and Detroit by two games. The Rangers still lead the AL West by 9 1/2 games over the Astros.
"That was a big win for us on a lot of levels," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Number 1, to jump out ahead. We had to tack on some runs first and then we had to hold them off. It's a good feeling getting on the plane."
Rangers starter Yu Darvish went a season-low four innings and allowed five runs on seven hits. He allowed a leadoff homer to George Springer and exited the game after allowing three runs in the fourth. Darvish had thrown eight straight quality starts, the third-longest streak by an AL pitcher this year.
Cut4: Yu see that pitch? Darvish freezes Gattis
"His command was not where it had been previously and he was challenged with landing the offspeed for strikes," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "He worked from behind hitters and really get it in the soft contact zones. He looked a little out of rhythm in my opinion -- very uncharacteristic."

Rougned Odor got the Rangers' comeback effort started in the fourth with a two-run homer off Astros starter Collin McHugh, who also allowed five runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. Odor brought them within a run on an RBI single as part of a three-run fifth. Ian Desmond and Carlos Beltrán added RBI doubles in the inning.

"I hung some," McHugh said. "I made some good pitches and I made some bad pitches, and all the bad pitches got hit. Not a whole lot you can do about it other than tip your hat to them for making good swings."

But Evan Gattis' solo shot in the top half of the inning off right-hander Nick Martínez -- his fifth in his last nine games -- and another run in the seventh proved to be the difference. The Astros' bullpen held the Rangers scoreless until the ninth when Ken Giles allowed a run following a leadoff triple from Desmond. Giles still went on to pick up his eighth save.

Early and often: Springer homered on Darvish's third pitch of the game, moving the Astros' right fielder into a tie for second among all Major League hitters with seven leadoff homers this season. Springer has led off 90 of the Astros' 136 games, while José Altuve led off 44 of the first 45 games and hit six leadoff homers. Houston's 13 leadoff homers are the second most in baseball history behind the 2003 Yankees, who hit 15.
"It gets everybody going, it's contagious," said Astros' No. 2 hitter Alex Bregman, who had three hits. "He set the tone there, that's all you can ask out of him. We fed off it. One-nothing, right off the bat, it's huge to get us an early lead." More >
Better off with the bunt: With runners on first and second and no out in the fourth, Jake Marisnick squared around to bunt off Darvish. He bunted the first pitch a little out in front of catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who fired to third to get the lead runner. But the ball had hit Marisnick's bat twice and was ruled foul. On the very next pitch, he lined a double down the left-field line to drive in Colby Rasmus for the first run in a three-run fourth by the Astros.
"Command-wise I didn't feel as bad as the last time I felt when I struggled," Darvish said, They were getting a lot of bloop hits and ground balls through the shift. It was just one of those things where I didn't think I was that bad."

Astros' bullpen gets job done: With McHugh leaving after only 4 1/3 innings, Houston had to piece together relievers for more than half the game, but the Astros bullpen was up to the task, holding the Rangers to one run over the next 4 2/3 innings. Chris Devenski came in for McHugh with a runner on first and one out, but he got two quick outs to end the fifth. He threw a scoreless sixth and Will Harris got out of a two-on, one-out jam to blank the Rangers in the seventh. Luke Gregerson pitched the eighth and Giles finished it out.
"That's how you draw it up. You come out of a game with the lead, we expect to win," McHugh said. "We expect them to shut the door and get the job done and they've done a really good job of it most of the year."

Odor can't handle flip: The Rangers were unable to turn an inning-ending double play with runners on first and third with one out in the second following a diving stop from shortstop Jurickson Profar. Profar was able to corral a well-struck grounder off the bat of Altuve that was headed for center field and flipped to Odor, who was unable to handle the toss and Alex Bregman was safe at second while Springer scored to give the Astros a two-run lead.
"I felt like the defense was good [today] very attentive," Banister said. "I know we dropped a ball trying to turn a tough double play, but other than that I thought we did pretty well."

"You start with Cleveland and what we were able to do with the Seattle series -- these guys played extremely hard. Against [the Astros], they came out the first two games and extend leads and battled hard. In our ballpark in an 8-2 situation for us is what we needed to do," -- Banister, on Rangers' 8-2 homestand against the Indians, Mariners and Astros
Odor hit his fifth home run in his last five games and is looking to become the first Rangers second baseman to lead the team outright in home runs after hitting his team-leading 29th on Sunday. He's also one homer shy of joining Alfonso Soriano and Ian Kinsler as the only Rangers second baseman to hit 30 home runs.
The Rangers ended their 10-game homestand 8-2, despite the loss. That mark is tied for the second-best record for a homestand of 10-plus in club history. More >
Carlos Gómez's helmet caused a cut above his left eye after he slid head-first into second base on a stolen base in the sixth inning. Gomez began to bleed from above his eye and was taken to the dugout for a few minutes to be looked at by Rangers athletic trainer Kevin Harmon. Gomez reemerged from the dugout with a bandage over the cut and remained in the game. But he would end up getting picked off at second moments after the ordeal.
"I'm fine, the helmet kind of just came up and hit me in the face," said Gomez, who received stitches after the game.

Banister looked to keep a seventh-inning rally alive with a challenge, but came up empty. Lucroy hit a soft grounder to Carlos Correa and was ruled out on a close play at first. If safe, the Rangers would've had the bases loaded with two outs, trailing 7-5. But the call on the field was confirmed after a 43-second review.

Astros:Mike Fiers (9-6, 4.31 ERA) will start the opener of a four-game series in Cleveland at 6:10 p.m. CT on Monday. Fiers pitched seven innings, allowing one run on three hits, in his only career outing against the Indians earlier this season.
Rangers:Cole Hamels (14-4, 2.91 ERA) will start the opener of a three-game series against the Mariners at 3:10 p.m. CT on Monday at Safeco Field. Hamels is one of just two pitchers in the Majors with at least 14 wins and a sub-3.00 ERA.
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Ryan Posner is a reporter for based in Texas.

Dave Sessions is a contributor to based in Texas and covered the Astros on Sunday.