ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Chris Woodward is not shying away from the issue. He said his players know what is at stake with three weeks to go before the July 31 Trade Deadline.
The Rangers need to keep winning and remain in contention, rather than fall out and risk another midsummer overhaul at the Deadline. That’s why Woodward said Thursday’s 5-0 victory over the Astros to start the second half was an important one.
The Rangers scored four runs in the first inning and starter Lance Lynn helped make it stand up, combining with José Leclerc and Chris Martin for the Rangers' fourth shutout of the season. This was the beginning of a stretch in which the Rangers play seven out of nine games against the division-leading Astros.
“It’s just one game, obviously, but it is important,” Woodward said. “We have a tough schedule, there is no way around it. July is not going to be easy. But if we start out and have the game we did tonight, execute, have our guy go out and do what he did, we are going to give ourselves a lot of chances to win games. It is important. I was hoping we would set the tone for the second half with a good one, and that was as good as it gets.”
Lynn, pitching for the first time in seven days, threw seven scoreless innings, allowing six hits and two walks while striking out 11. He has won five straight with a 2.00 ERA and is 12-4 with a 3.69 ERA in 19 starts. He is the first 12-game winner in the Majors.
Lynn had some mechanical trouble in the first couple of innings after the long layoff, but he was able to pitch out of jams in the second and third innings before getting on a roll. Lynn said the key was getting himself to slow down on the mound.
“A couple extra days off with the break, it will happen,” Lynn said. “I just slowed it down after the second and got in a good rhythm.”
Lynn threw first-pitch strikes to just four of the first 10 batters he faced, but then got ahead with a first-pitch strike on 18 of the last 19. He threw 59 pitches in the first three innings and just 51 over the final four. He was also out of the zone with balls on 18 of his first 36 pitches before throwing 57 of his last 74 pitches for strikes.
“Lynn beat us with his fastball,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “He was pretty much coming right at us. He’s got a couple of different versions of it. His two-seamer is good, his four-seamer is good, and he kind of rides a little bit and he throws a lot of them. He threw more fastballs tonight than he did the last time we faced him. He just beat us with the fastball, and we had a hard time putting any good inning together. They spotted him a four-run lead and he was in attack mode.”
Shin-Soo Choo started the rally with a leadoff walk and is hitting .456 with a .537 on-base percentage in the first inning this season. Delino DeShields followed with a double that moved Choo to third, and he scored on Elvis Andrus’ grounder to short. After Nomar Mazara reached on an infield single, Joey Gallo drove in a run with a double. Rougned Odor’s two-run double made it 4-0.
“It was great,” Odor said. “We take those three days off and come back ready to go. Lance Lynn did a great job.”
Odor also had a third-inning double and scored on a single by Jeff Mathis. The Rangers had 11 hits on the night, including one from each hitter in the starting lineup.
The pitching did the rest and the Rangers are now 5-6 against the Astros, including 5-2 at Globe Life Park. There are six more to go in the Silver Boot Series in July. After that there will be just a two-game series between the Rangers and the Astros on Sept. 17-18 in Houston.
“You obviously want to get off to a good start in the second half, especially against these guys.” Mathis said. “But every game is big and it has been since from the get-go and will be from here on out.”