Semien's slam provides 'euphoria' as Rangers thump Astros

April 17th, 2023

HOUSTON -- Bruce Bochy said it was almost like “euphoria hit the dugout” on Sunday night when the ball left ’s bat in the seventh inning against the Astros and soared far into the Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park for a grand slam.

Euphoria isn’t quite as dramatic of a word as it may seem. It was Semien’s seventh career grand slam, powering the Rangers to a 9-1 win over the Astros and their first series victory in Houston since 2018.

A series win in Houston has been elusive for the Rangers in recent years. The club has gone 6-30 (.167) in its last 36 games at Minute Maid Park, dating back to the beginning of 2019. That is the lowest win percentage by any team at any venue (min. 15 games) over that span.

In the Silver Boot Series as a whole, the Rangers went 5-14 against the Astros in 2022, and they have lost the season series each of the last two years. Texas also owns a 1-5 season series record vs. Houston in the last six years. Entering Sunday, the Rangers were just 36-71 (.336) against Houston since the start of 2017.

“We came into the season saying, ‘Hey, we're a better club,’” Bochy said. “We played well. We have to play well to beat them. They're world champs, that shouldn't be a big surprise. They've dominated a lot of teams, and that's how good they are. … It’s a great start and hopefully these guys -- and I'm not gonna say hopefully -- I think they know that if you play like you're capable of playing, they can play with anybody.”

Here are three key moments from the Rangers’ big series-clinching win over the Astros:

Huge top of the seventh 
Semien’s grand slam blew the game open, but every plate appearances in the top of the seventh inning was key to the Rangers’ win. Nathaniel Lowe led off the inning with a double before Adolis García and Josh Jung reached to load the bases.

A bases-loaded walk from Jonah Heim and a Robbie Grossman RBI single to snap an 0-for-22 skid set Semien up perfectly.

“It was big, especially against the stuff that we’re facing,” Bochy said. 

With two big bats on the injured list in Corey Seager and Mitch Garver, Bochy has emphasized the need for the Rangers to find ways to manufacture runs. In the seventh inning against the Astros, they did exactly that, against a formidable foe in Framber Valdez. 

“When you’re facing a guy like Valdez, you have your work cut out for you,” he said. “We just had some good at-bats, really the whole order did something, and of course Marcus topped it off. You're hoping to keep it close and then something like that happens where you break it open and it couldn't work out better for us.”

Bullpen management in the bottom of the seventh 
After taking a 6-0 lead, the Rangers were very close to handing it right back in the bottom half of the seventh inning. With threats looming, Bochy did exactly what Bochy does: handle a bullpen with ease.

After reliever Brock Burke gave up a hit and two walks to open the frame, Bochy turned to Jonathan Hérnandez to face the top of Houston’s order with the bases loaded. Hérnandez promptly struck out Martín Maldonado and Mauricio Dubón before walking Alex Bregman, leaving the bases loaded once again with Yordan Alvarez at the plate.

Again, Bochy quickly turned to a new arm, former Astros reliever Will Smith, who got his former teammate to softly ground out to third base and end the threat.

“With our bullpen situation, I was hoping to get some work out of Burke, and he just lost his release point there a little bit,” Bochy explained. “Johnny came in and did a terrific job getting two big strikeouts. Of course they get their guy up there and if he gets ahold of one, it’s a one-run ballgame. I was trying to avoid using Smitty there, but in this ballpark, anything can happen. So we went to our guys there and then put it away.”

Heaney duels with Valdez 
Lost in the late-game chaos was Andrew Heaney’s strong start, going toe to toe with Astros ace Valdez. The Rangers’ lefty tossed five shutout innings, allowing two hits and three walks, but effectively getting out of every situation when he needed to.

His command left a little bit to be desired, and he had just four swings and misses, while not hitting on the edge of the zone as much as he would have liked. But he made pitches when it mattered.

“I kept us in it, did just enough,” Heaney said. “It was a little bit frustrating, but obviously a win is a win, and that’s what I want at the end of the day.”