ARLINGTON -- Baseball in Texas is better when the Silver Boot Series is competitive. It hasn’t been in more than a half-decade, as the Astros dominated the American League West with two World Series titles.
But as the two teams closed a four-game series in Arlington on Monday afternoon, the potential of the Lone Star State rivalry manifested itself at Globe Life Field. Unfortunately, the Rangers came out on the wrong end of it against the defending champs, falling 12-11 in a back-and-forth affair that allowed Houston to secure a series victory.
“I tell you what, these guys battled so hard today,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “What a great fight they showed. This is a hard one to let get away, no doubt, but you're looking at so many good things that happened in that ballgame. This was a tough loss, but you got to love what happened out there today.”
The Rangers trailed 6-0 after the top of the second inning and then again 10-2 following the top of the fourth before an offensive onslaught -- led by seven- and eight-hole hitters Travis Jankowski and Leody Taveras, who combined for eight RBIs -- allowed Texas to rally to a 11-10 lead entering the ninth.
But closer Will Smith -- who entered the game having converted 14 of 15 save opportunities this season -- gave up two runs in the top of the ninth inning, allowing the Astros to come away with a win.
“You watched it. It just didn’t go my way,” Smith said. “We battled back all game down 10, and it feels like [crap] coughing that one up. It just wasn’t my day.”
“I'm not going to go there now because Smitty has been doing such a great job,” Bochy said of Chapman potentially becoming the closer. “That's not what we're even thinking about right now. The eighth, he was big, too. Those are important innings: seventh, eighth and ninth. We need to put zeros up there, too. I'll leave it at that.”
Despite the offensive explosion, the Rangers’ pitching left a lot to be desired from the very start.
Starter Martín Pérez was knocked out of the game in the second inning after giving up six runs on six hits and two walks. The Astros went deep three times off the lefty, including back-to-back solo shots from Chaz McCormick and Yainer Diaz before he even recorded an out in the second.
Glenn Otto then gave up four runs in the fourth -- including a 452-foot three-run homer to José Abreu -- that extended the Astros’ lead to eight runs.
“It was a bad game [for me],” Pérez said. “We came back, we tied the game and we had good run support today. We just have to move on and be ready for the next one. I think we just need to keep playing the game that we know how to play. We’re going to have games like these ones, where we're going to hit and they're going to hit. But we just have to move on. We still have 70-something games [left] in the second half. We're a pretty good team, and we're going to be fine.”
They may be fine, but there’s no denying that dropping a series to the Astros is not ideal in what is shaking up to be a tight race in the AL West.
There’s a lot of baseball left, and the Rangers still have a three-game advantage on the Astros, but the club has to hope it doesn't look at this series come September as the separator in the division race down the stretch.
“Obviously we'd like to win that game,” Bochy said. “We have a lot of baseball left, and we have to keep fighting like that. We'll be fine. That's a good team over there. They were fighting too.
"We’re hitting the road, and we’ve got to put this series behind us. It was a very intense series, a very intense game today, but we’ve got to get ready to go tomorrow with the day game in Boston. We’ve got to keep that edge, keep that intensity going.”