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Astros sweep! Pitching sparkles again in 5-3 win over Rangers

Two Brantley homers the big blows

MLB: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Last night Jose Urquidy, rookie making his third major league start, held the Rangers to one run in seven innings. Today Rogelio Armenteros, another rookie, making his fourth appearance and first big league start, held the Rangers to one run in five innings. He got his first win, holding the cops to two hits, two walks while striking out six Ranger batters. In fourteen innings pitched this year, Armenteros has a 1.93 ERA.

Have the Astros answered their questions concerning the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation? Obviously, larger samples are required before the team can commit to these two pitchers, but here’s another factor to consider.

In the last seven days before today, the Rangers’ offensive production ranked dead last in MLB. The team batting average over that time is .180, the wRC+ 42. Two batters are hitting over .300 during this time, but the normal sluggers, Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara, Joey Gallo and Elvis Andrus are hitting .111, .083, .077, and .059 respectively.

I don’t want to throw too much cold water on the enthusiasm we may be feeling about the rookie pitchers right now, but Framber Valdez might have looked good these last two games against this slumping Rangers squad.

But that certainly doesn’t take anything away from Michael Brantley, who was 3 for 3 with a walk, two home runs and three RBI. His first inning home run that scored Alex Bregman gave the Astros a two-run lead. His solo homer in the eighth gave the Astros important insurance heading into the ninth inning.

Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez (every recap must include Alvarez) accounted for the rest of the Astros’ scoring in the fifth inning. With two outs Jose Altuve hit his 14th home run, a solo shot to right center field. Alex Bregman followed with a single, Brantley walked, and then Alvarez singled home Bregman, his second hit of the day.

Rangers scoring began in the third inning with a Jeff Mathis walk, a Choo single, and then an infield hit by Danny Santana which scored Mathis.

Nomar Mazara hit a solo home run in the sixth for the Rangers off Josh James, and Logan Forsythe concluded the day’s scoring with a solo home run in the ninth off Roberto Osuna, who got his 22nd save.

A few fun facts: the Astros were mighty at the top of the order today but horrific at the bottom.

Astros bottom of the order (6-9): 0-14, 10 Ks, 0 BB

Astros top of the order (1-4): 8-14, 3 HR, 2 BB, 3 Ks

Since getting the first game of the series off, Brantley has hit 6 for 7 with a double and two home runs. His .332 BA leaves him in second place in the AL, just .002 behind D.J. LeMahieu.

Yuli Gurriel extended his hitting streak to 10 games, and 20 in his last 21. He did not extend his Minute Maid home run streak to six, but he just missed, hitting a double that missed the yellow line in left center field by a few feet.

With his two singles today, Yordan Alvarez boosted his BA back to .333. In 29 games he has 33 RBI, and in 129 PAs he has 10 home runs.

Here’s another Josh Reddick robbery of a home run in right field. Routine.

The Astros triumphed against the Rangers using the weak part of their rotation. Now they face the tough, second place Oakland A’s, opening the series tomorrow with Gerrit Cole, (10-5, 3.12 ERA), undoubtedly the Astros’ best pitcher since May. He will face Homer Bailey, (8-6, 4.69 ERA)

Game time at 7:10 CDT.

Box score and videos HERE.