It was a day for milestones as the Rangers held on for an 11-10 victory over the Astros on Sunday afternoon at Globe Life Park. Texas, which survived a near-ninth-inning meltdown, took two of three against Houston for the second series this month.
“It’s amazing,” manager Chris Woodward said. “It’s a great start to the season. Both [series] were at home, and I know they play well at home. When we get there, it’s obviously going to be a test. I like how our guys came out and executed a game plan and took it to them. What I like about it is they beat us both times in the first game, we came back, showed no quit and kind of took it to them.”
The day was memorable for both Miller and Gallo, and it also reinforced the value of Shin-Soo Choo hitting at the top of the Rangers' lineup. Here's the breakdown on those three components.
The winning pitcher
Miller, who pitched in five games for the D-backs last season after recovering from Tommy John surgery, was 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in his first three starts for the Rangers and 0-6 with a 9.60 ERA in his last nine Major League outings since his last win on April 18, 2017.
The right-hander was sharp, holding the Astros to one run through five innings while his offensive teammates built a 10-1 lead. He gave up back-to-back home runs to Alex Bregman and Michael Brantley to start the sixth, retired Carlos Correa on a popout and then left after Choo dropped Yuli Gurriel’s fly ball for an error.
“I think I was just getting ahead of hitters early and often,” Miller said. “I think my fastball command was good. Curveball usage was pretty good. Really the only time I got hit around was obviously going into the sixth. Third time through the lineup, kind of still throwing heaters and they were on them. Need to do a better job of mixing it up there and I probably have a little bit cleaner of an inning.”
Miller went 5 1/3 innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and two walks with three strikeouts. It was the longest outing and first win by a Rangers starter other than Mike Minor and Lance Lynn this season.
“Since my TJ, I haven’t pitched very well that deep into games,” Miller said. “So, today was a pretty big stepping stone for me going forward. I think this was a step in the right direction.”
The sacrifice fly
Gallo tied a career high with five RBIs, including a two-run triple in the first and bringing home a run with a grounder in the third. But the other two RBIs were more memorable.
Gallo drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth, the first of his career. He had gone his first 1,145 at-bats without a sacrifice fly, the most by a Major League player since the sacrifice fly became a statistic in 1954. Among active players, San Diego’s Travis Jankowski, who is on the injured list this season, is the new leader with 847 at-bats without a sacrifice fly.
“Yeah, that was pretty cool,” Gallo said. “I mean, to get that out of the way -- I'm pretty sick of hearing about it, so I was very excited about that.”
Gallo drove in another run in the sixth. With Choo on third base and two outs, Gallo hit a sky-high popup in the infield that dropped safely amid the sunshine and the wind. Gallo was so disgusted after immediately popping up, he flung his bat away and almost clobbered Hunter Pence in the on-deck circle.
“It was just an Easter miracle, man,” Gallo said, crediting divine intervention. “Out of all the balls that get taken away from me in the shift, it's just -- He was just helping me out right there, saying, 'Here's a free one for you.' So, I kind of appreciated that.”
The leadoff hitter
The Rangers scored all their runs in four innings, and Choo led off by reaching base in three of them. He started a three-run first with a double, a four-run third with a walk and had another walk ahead of the Gallo single in the sixth,
Choo is 11-for-23 with seven walks and a hit by pitch when leading off an inning. That’s a .478 batting average and a .613 on-base percentage.
“It’s amazing,” Woodward said. “I don’t want to jinx anything, but I don’t know how many games he has led off with a double or a walk. It’s insane. He just sets the tone when he is leading off an inning. He is obviously a high on-base guy, but he’s doing it with damage and working the count. When you can do both, it’s a pretty unique mix at the top of the lineup.”