Beset by injuries, Astros hold off Rangers

Beset by injuries, Astros hold off Rangers

HOUSTON -- This time the Astros were able to hold off the Rangers' late-inning charge and kept their postseason hopes alive with an 8-4 victory on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.

The victory moves the Astros to within 3 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the American League Wild Card race. The Astros are off on Thursday before opening a three-game series with the Mariners on Friday in Seattle. The Rangers are nine games up over the Mariners, who were playing the Angels late Wednesday night in Anaheim.

The Rangers finish the season with a 15-4 record against the Astros, tying for their second most wins against any opponent in club history. They were 17-2 against the Astros in 2013 and 53-23 against them over the past four years.

"I want to see them again," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "If we see them again, it means we're meeting in October, so bring it. I hope we're there."

The Rangers have 15 games left, including 12 at home, against the Athletics, Angels, Brewers and Rays. Those teams went into Wednesday a combined 77 games under .500.

Astros rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove, staked to a 3-1 lead after two innings and a 5-1 lead in the sixth, held the Rangers to three runs in 6 1/3 innings. At one point he retired 14 of 15 batters before a walk to Jurickson Profar and Nomar Mazara's two-run home run brought his night to an end with two outs in the seventh.

"I thought he held his composure very well," Hinch said. "It's unfortunate that his outing ends on a bad note with the homer to Mazara, but a really gutsy performance on a night that we needed [it]."

Musgrove strikes out Odor

The Rangers added a run in the eighth on a double by Adrian Beltre and an RBI single by Jonathan Lucroy to make it a one-run game. But the Astros added three more in the bottom of the inning on a two-run single by Marwin Gonzalez and an RBI hit from Jake Marisnick, and Chris Devenski closed it out in the ninth.

"Our guys continue to grind through it," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "We have a comeback plan when we get behind, and we had it in play. We got to within one. If we had kept it right there, we would have had a chance."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Leadoff Springer dinger: After the Astros went down, 1-0, in the top of the first, George Springer sent a big solo shot to the Crawford Boxes in the first at-bat of the ensuing half-inning, tying the score. The home run, which went a Statcast-projected 386 feet, was Springer's eighth leadoff shot this season, tying the club record set by Craig Biggio in 2001. The Astros have 14 leadoff homers this season, the most in franchise history and one shy of the 2003 Yankees' Major League record.

"I really like the way we fought back," Hinch said. "Even after they scored the run in the first, Springer leads off the bottom of the first with a home run, puts a little bit more energy in our dugout, and then we continue to tack on some runs. Even when they answered back to end Musgrove's night, we answered back with another good inning. We keep fighting."

Springer's leadoff home run

Mazara mash: Mazara gave the Rangers life in the seventh with a two-run home run to cut the Astros' lead to two. It was Mazara's 18th home run of the season, breaking a tie with Chris Davis for the sixth-most home runs in a season by a Rangers rookie. Mazara leads AL rookies in home runs, hits and runs. Mazara's home run traveled a Statcast-estimated 398 feet, which was only his fourth home run this year that didn't travel 400-plus feet.

"I'm not worried about that," Mazara said of the home run mark. "I'm just trying to go out there and help my team win. If it comes, I'm going to be happy with it. But at the end of the day, it's all about wins."

Hinch on 8-4 win over Rangers

Altuve, Bregman injured: As if the Astros needed more bad luck down the stretch, All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve left the game in the fifth with discomfort in his right oblique, and rookie third baseman Alex Bregman left in the sixth with discomfort in his right hamstring. Altuve, who doubled in his first at-bat, was replaced in the lineup by Tyler White, and fellow rookie Tony Kemp replaced Bregman, who doubled to lead off the sixth. Altuve leads the AL in batting average (.341) and hits (196), and Bregman is batting .260 in his first year in the Majors.

"They're getting looked at, getting all the tests [from] doctors," Hinch said. "They're going to have a full evaluation before we're going to know anything, but I'm not optimistic about Friday for either of them."

Bregman exits the game

Historic double starts rally: With one out in the eighth, Beltre hit his 586th career double to the gap in right-center. It broke a tie with former Ranger Rafael Palmeiro for No. 19 on the all-time list. Delino DeShields immediately pinch-ran for Beltre and came around to score on a two-out single from Lucroy to make it a one-run game. Next up on the all-time doubles list is Todd Helton, with 592.

Beltre's historic double

Marwin does it all: With the injuries to Altuve and Bregman, the Astros were forced to get creative, and infielder Gonzalez allowed them to do that. When Altuve left in the fifth, White entered to play first, moving Gonzalez, who was originally at first, to second. Gonzalez later moved to third after Bregman got hurt in the sixth, with rookie Kemp taking over at second. But the Astros weren't done yet. Gonzalez moved once again, this time back to second, while designated hitter Yulieski Gurriel moved to third, scrapping the designated hitter for the rest of the game. As if that weren't enough, Gonzalez hit a two-run single in the bottom of the eighth, essentially sealing his team's win.

"I'm prepared to do that," Gonzalez said. "That's my role on the team. I have to cover it like any spot, but the most important thing is that we won the game. It was a really good game." More >

Gonzalez's two-run single

QUOTABLE
"Overall, 5-5 is big. Any time you can log in wins at this time of the year, it's big. To go 5-5 on a three-city, 10-day trip that we started 1-3, I think we finished it on a positive note, with the exception of tonight's game." -- Banister, on the Rangers' road trip, which also included stops in Seattle and Anaheim

UNDER REVIEW
The Rangers picked up their second out in the bottom of the first after Banister was able to get a stolen base by Altuve overturned. Altuve lined a double off the left-field wall and tried to get himself on third with one out, attempting a stolen base with Carlos Correa at the plate. The throw from catcher Lucroy beat Altuve to third base, but he was initially ruled safe.

Rangers challenge in the 1st

WHAT'S NEXT
Rangers: After an off-day on Thursday, Cole Hamels will take the mound for the opener of a three-game series against the A's at 7:05 p.m. CT on Friday at Globe Life Park. The Rangers are 21-8 in Hamels' starts this year and have won five of his last seven.

Astros: The Astros continue their stretch of 19 consecutive games against opponents from the AL West on Friday when they face the Mariners at Safeco Field in a 9:10 p.m. CT start. Right-hander Collin McHugh, who is 3-0 in three starts against Seattle this season, will take the hill.

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T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Jordan Ray is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.