Paced by a 4-5 night by Robbie Grossman and a gritty performance by Dallas Keuchel, the Astros capped off a sweep of the Texas Rangers on Wednesday. The win marks Houston's first sweep in Arlington, and of the Rangers themselves, since June 2003. In addition, the victory moves the Astros into fourth place in the American League West (albeit by 0.001 percentage points). Each team now sits 19 games behind the first-place Oakland Athletics.
The match-up pitted Keuchel against Rangers ace Yu Darvish, a pairing that proved less dominant than expected. Keuchel wound up pitching 6.2 frames while giving up four runs, all earned, on eight hits. As for Darvish, he would battle through a rough six innings and 109 pitches. Though he tallied eight strikeouts, the Japanese hurler surrendered six earned runs on 10 hits, marking perhaps his worst appearance of the season.
The teams' offenses traded runs over the first three innings. In the opening frame, Texas's Adrian Beltre staked his team to a 1-0 lead with a two-out RBI single knocking in Alex Rios. Houston answered in the second, though, as Enrique Hernandez skied an RBI triple into left field, scoring catcher Carlos Corporan. During the next at-bat, Hernandez reached home on a wild pitch by Darvish, drawing the score to 2-1 Astros.
The bottom of the second brought more runs. With the bases loaded on two singles and a walk, Texas regained the lead on a two-run double by seven-year minor leaguer Daniel Robertson, whose presence on Texas's roster speaks to the team's glut of injuries. Left-fielder Shin-Soo Choo would follow up the hit with a sacrifice fly.
Over the next few frames, though, Robbie Grossman got to work. Batting in the third after a lead-off double by Jose Altuve, he lined an RBI single over shortstop Elvis Andrus and into left field. Then, with the Astros down by one in the fifth, Grossman delivered his biggest knock of the game, a line-drive home run into the right-field corner. While the hit did not put Houston ahead, it turned the game's tide, conveying that the club's offense would continue battling against one of MLB's premier pitchers.
And battle it did. Against Darvish in the sixth, Jonathan Singleton and Chris Carter reached base on singles, putting together a one-out threat. Next, Carlos Corporan sliced a 1-2 splitter down the left-field line for a double, scoring both runners and putting Houston up 6-4. Getting a bad defensive read, Choo slid late for the ball and allowed it to rattle into the corner. Rangers manager Ron Washington soon challenged the call on the field, asserting that the hit landed in foul territory, but the double was confirmed via replay.
With a sweep in sight and Keuchel in a groove, George Springer delivered the dagger in the seventh. Coming to bat after another single by Grossman, he lifted an opposite-field homer off a fastball from Jason Frasor. The round-tripper was the 19th on the year by Springer, who four innings earlier made a highlight-reel catch against the center-field wall. With the homer, he continues to add to his club record for rookie dingers before the All-Star break.
Taking advantage of their run-cushion, Keuchel, Jose Veras, and Chad Qualls worked the game's final three innings. The trio shut down the Rangers' offense while preserving the bullpen at large. Along the way, Keuchel made a brilliant bare-handed play on a chopper to record his final out on the night. As for Qualls, he ended the game by striking out Rios with runners on first and second.
Looking ahead, the 'Stros will enjoy an off-day tomorrow before opening a three-game set in Houston against the Boston Red Sox, currently the owners of a 40-51 record. Friday's opener starts at 7:10 PM Central.
--Grossman has hit two of his three homers this year at Globe Life Park.
--Houston's season record against Texas is now 6-3, putting the team in prime position to win the Silver Boot for the first time since 2006.