Houston claims Silver Boot, climbs to 2 GB of AL's top spot
By Brian McTaggart and Sam Butler
ARLINGTON -- The Astros pushed the rival Rangers to the brink of elimination on Monday night, winning the season series between the Lone Star State rivals in the process.
The American League West-champion Astros sent 12 batters to the plate in an eight-run outburst in the fourth inning -- taking advantage of a pair of costly errors to push across seven unearned runs -- to beat the Rangers, 11-2, at Globe Life Park.
"They gave us an extra out or two and we capitalized and put up some really good at-bats, a couple of big hits," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Obviously, we took advantage of a few things. A big No. 8 to separate ourselves, and we took control of the game from there on."
"I'm doing good," Altuve said. "When I got hit, I thought was something really, really bad, but thank God it was just a hard hit and I feel good."
The Astros (96-60) tied the 1986 team -- which clinched the National League West title on a Mike Scott no-hitter exactly 31 years earlier -- for the third most victories in club history and improved to 10-7 this year against Texas with two meetings left in the Silver Boot rivalry series. They also moved to within two games of the Indians for the best record in the AL with six games remaining in the regular season.
"It feels pretty good," said outfielder Marwin Gonzalez, who went 4-for-5 with a homer and is hitting .424 in his last nine games. "I think the season we're having is unbelievable, but we're trying to get to 100 wins and get the best record, too. It's good to beat them, but we are taking them as any other team."
The loss dropped the Rangers six games behind the Twins for the second AL Wild Card spot. One loss by the Rangers or one win by the Twins in the final six games eliminates Texas from postseason contention.
Astros starter Collin McHugh (4-2) held the Rangers to seven hits and two runs in five innings while throwing a season-high 112 pitches. Texas led, 2-0, when the Astros erupted in the fourth against Andrew Cashner (10-11), scoring eight times to take an 8-2 lead.
"He had one hard-hit ball. We made some errors behind him with two outs where he'd be out of the inning," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "There was some things inside that inning that you kind of scratch your head about. We've got a guy in Cashner, he's been quality for us. He continued to pitch and tried to pitch through that, and again, wasn't getting hit hard. His stuff was still good."
Gonzalez (4-for-5) had a two-run single to give Houston a 6-2 lead and Evan Gattis added a two-run double, but Cashner was undone by fielding errors by shortstop Elvis Andrus and third baseman Will Middlebrooks. All but one of the runs in the inning were earned, tying a club record for unearned runs that was last matched 30 years ago.
"They made a couple of mistakes and we took advantage," Gonzalez said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED One hit away: Altuve singled in the first inning for his 199th hit of the season, leaving him one shy of his fourth consecutive 200-hit season, before leaving the game in the seventh. He was struck on the left forearm just about the wrist by a pitch thrown by right-hander Jose Leclerc.
All shook up: The Astros were trailing, 2-1, in the fourth and had the bases loaded with two outs when George Springer hit a grounder toward second base that Andrus misplayed into an error, allowing the tying run to score. Altuve followed with a bases-loaded walk and Carlos Correa reached on an error to force home the fourth run before two-run hits by Gonzalez and Gattis broke the game open.
"I just never found a way to recover," Cashner said. "I tried to make pitches, get the swing-and-miss, and it just snowballed quick." More >>
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Gonzalez's 443-foot homer in the sixth inning was his longest since Statcast™ debuted (2015), and at 108.1 mph, it was his hardest hit homer this year and second hardest overall.
"We have it now, and they can't have it back. I want to win as many as a I can." -- Hinch, on the Astros winning the Silver Boot series for his first time as manager
"It's been a must-win for us for the last two weeks." -- Cashner
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW
Banister successfully challenged a call in the sixth inning. Altuve was initially called safe at first on a high throw from Middlebrooks, but replays showed first baseman Joey Gallo tagged Altuve's helmet before he touched the base.
Umpires issued a warning to both teams after Carlos Gomez and McHugh exchanged words during an at-bat in the second inning in which Gomez wound up striking out looking. Gomez, a teammate of McHugh from 2015-16 in Houston, had an altercation with Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. in May and was hit by a McHugh pitch last month.
"I get hit many times, in my neck and shoulder and nobody says anything about it," Gomez said. "I just react and I told him, 'What do you want? You want to do this or do you want to play baseball?' I waited for him last time and he run like a little cat. You want to be tough when there are 50 men outside? Or do you want to be tough when you have me face to face and no one around? I'm here to play baseball. Every time I get blamed."
Said McHugh: "The second pitch, he took a big swing and fouled it off and took about five steps out toward the mound, looking me straight in the eye. I just asked him if we had a problem. It was a rhetorical question because, clearly, he's got a problem with me. I don't exactly know what it is, but whatever the case, he came out and I asked him what the issue was and he said, 'Yeah, I got a problem with you.' That was it. Everybody else was out there by that point in time. The game goes on. I don't want to spend any more mental effort thinking about Carlos Gomez."
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Left-hander Dallas Keuchel (13-5, 2.96 ERA) makes what could be his final start of the regular season in Tuesday's 7:05 p.m. CT game against the Rangers at Globe Life Park. Keuchel would be lined up to pitch Sunday's series finale in Boston, but the Astros will likely skip him considering they are on track to play the Red Sox in the AL Division Series.
Rangers:Cole Hamels starts the middle game of the series on Tuesday night. He's turned things around over his past three starts, going 2-1 with a 2.53 ERA. In 15 career games against the Astros, Hamels is 7-3 with a 3.78 ERA. Preview >>