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J.P. France Storms the Bastille. Shuts Down Rangers En Route to Astros 4-3 Win

Two homers and key defensive plays central to win that puts the Astros within one game of the Rangers for first.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros
Astros starting pitcher J.P. France (68) reacts after getting a strikeout during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers 
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It’s about time we Astros fans —and MLB — started to take J.P. France seriously. Tonight he went seven innings without allowing an earned run against a team that scored 20 runs against the Astros in the last two games between these two teams. The Rangers lead the majors in wRC+, and runs scored. But against France, they looked lame.

The Astros scored first on Rangers opener Yerry Rodriguez thanks to an RBI double by — who else — Chas McCormick and a sacrifice fly by Corey Julks.

But after that, this game was a pitcher’s duel until the sixth inning between the Astros’ France and the Rangers’ Cody Bradford. Bradford held the Astros scoreless until the sixth when Kyle Tucker hit a just-barely homer to right field.

In the seventh inning, Martin Maldonado added a run with a monster mash of his own.

Meanwhile, France completely shut down the locked and loaded, league-leading Rangers offense for seven innings. The only run the Rangers scored on France was unearned on an egregious error by Jeremy Pena in the sixth inning. Although he only struck out three, he limited the Rangers to five hits and two walks. His command and control were impeccable. He threw 52 strikes out of 84 pitches. France did benefit from three double plays. Tonight’s performance was France’s eighth quality start in his last nine attempts.

He’s looking more and more legit every time out.

Here’s an interesting breakdown of France’s performance tonight.

Pena atoned for his previous error with an amazing assist in the eighth inning which beat Marcus Semien at the plate by an inch. Semien appeared to be safe to all eyes but was called out upon review.

Although Hector Neris gave up a single, a double, and a walk in the eighth, he escaped unscathed thanks to Pena’s play and a key swinging strikeout on a ball in the dirt to slugger Adolis Garcia for out three.

Closer Ryan Pressly made everyone especially grateful for the late-inning insurance runs as he gave up a two-run homer to Mitch Garver and almost surrendered a game-tying homer on the last at-bat except for a possibly game-saving catch in right by Kyle Tucker.

Nonetheless, it’s another win for the Astros and brings the team to within one game of the Rangers for the lead in the AL West. After two slugfests in the last two games between the Astros and Rangers, this game was decided by two incredible defensive plays.

A win tomorrow for the Stros brings the Rangers and Astros into a tie for first. And there’s a chance that both Yordan Alvarez and Jose Altuve will return from IL tomorrow. Plus, it’s a Framber day.

Game time 7:10.

Box score HERE.