Rangers rout Astros to boost wild-card chances

The SportsXchange

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The desperate Texas Rangers continued their season-long pounding of the Houston Astros, cruising to a 12-0 victory Monday to begin a three-game series crucial to the home team's wild-card hopes.

Texas beat Houston for the 15th time in 17 meetings this season. Lefty Derek Holland (10-9) went the distance to record his first win since Aug. 4, and right fielder Alex Rios led a 14-hit barrage by hitting for the cycle while collecting four RBIs.

The win moved the Rangers (85-71) one game back of the idle Cleveland Indians for the second American League wild-card spot. The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles on a walk-off home run to maintain their two-game advantage over Texas. All three teams have six games remaining.

Texas' slumping offense feasted early and often on Houston starter Jordan Lyles, jumping out to a 7-0 lead through three innings, then tagging two Houston relievers for five more runs over the next three innings to hand the Astros a 10th consecutive loss.

"It's been a while since we've scored early," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We did a couple times on the road, but the key was to continue to put runs on the board, and that's what we did, we continued to put runs on the board. ... It's certainly something we've been looking been."

The Rangers breathed a sigh of relief as they finally got a home victory this month (1-7) and improved to 6-15 overall in an agonizing month of September. They went from leading the American League West to falling behind the Rays and Indians in the wild-card chase.

Holland kept the Astros' anemic lineup quiet, escaping his only jam, which was a minor one in the second inning. He allowed the first two batters to reach base on consecutive singles. Holland retired the next three batters to get out of the inning and set down seven in a row before allowing a one-out walk in the fifth. He scattered six hits and one walk while striking out nine, one shy of his season high.

"It was real good," Washington said of Holland's outing. "He was able to stay focused. Him and (catcher) A.J. (Pierzynski) kept the ball down, moved it around the zone, and he even had three or four innings where he went 1-2-3, something that he's needed for a long time. It's a big confidence boost for him."

Houston fell to 51-106. With one more loss, the Astros would match the franchise's single-season record, set last season.

Texas will turn to ace Yu Darvish in Tuesday's game as it seeks its first back-to-back victories since Aug. 27-28. Twice this season, Darvish took no-hit bids into the eighth inning against Houston.

"Tomorrow night we've got to come back and fight even harder," Astros manager Bo Porter said.

The Rangers struck for two runs in the first inning on consecutive hits by the first three batters.

Ian Kinsler led off with a single into right. Elvis Andrus, with Kinsler on the move, lined a hit to left and took second after the throw went to third base well behind Kinsler. Rios followed with a sharp grounder down the third base line to score both runners.

Kinsler made it 3-0 in the second with a two-out double that scored Craig Gentry, who walked to start the inning and stole second.

The Rangers scored four times in the third, the first coming home when the erratic Lyles walked David Murphy with the bases loaded and two outs. Leonys Martin, the No. 9 hitter, then cleared the bases with a line drive to deep center to make it 7-0, but he was thrown out trying to leg out a triple.

"It means a lot," Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said of the win. "Everybody can relax. Everybody knows we have great success against the Astros, and it's always good when can do it. Hopefully we can carry the momentum through the week."

Lyles (7-9) threw 75 pitches in his three innings and never gave the Astros a fighting chance to snap out of their funk. He gave up seven runs on seven hits and three walks. He struck out two.

"Just another bad outing," a dejected Lyles said. "I know I can pitch at this level and be successful, but I can't have these kind of nights. I just got to get better pitching with guys on base and not letting other things distract me."

Right-hander reliever David Martinez couldn't stop the Rangers in the fourth, giving up an RBI single to Andrus, who got caught in a rundown between first and second for the first out. Rios followed with a solo home run to left for a 9-0 Texas lead.

NOTES: Rios' fourth-inning home run ended a six-game homer drought at home for the Rangers that spanned 229 at-bats dating to Sept. 1. ... Suspended Rangers OF Nelson Cruz told USA Today that he initially planned to appeal his 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs, but he feared Major League Baseball would seek a 100-game ban. Cruz is eligible to rejoin the team if Texas earns a wild-card berth or must play a 163rd game to determine the wild card. ... The Astros activated C Max Stassi from the disabled list. He suffered the concussion against the Rangers on Aug. 21. ... Rangers 3B Adrian Beltre needs eight hits to reach 200, two home runs to reach 30 and two RBIs to reach 90 this season. The only AL players in the last seven seasons to reach those levels are Detroit Tigers 3B Miguel Cabrera (2012) and Boston Red Sox OF Jacoby Ellsbury (2011).
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