Houston climbs to one game back of AL's best record
By Brian McTaggart and T.R. Sullivan
ARLINGTON -- The Astros eliminated the Rangers from postseason contention in convincing fashion Tuesday night, bashing out 18 hits to back six strong innings from starter Dallas Keuchel for a 14-3 rout at Globe Life Park.
Keuchel (14-5), making likely his final start of the regular season, held the Rangers to two runs (one earned) and five hits and struck out eight batters. The lefty is lined up to pitch Sunday's regular-season finale against the Red Sox, but it's unlikely he would pitch considering the Astros will probably face Boston in the American League Division Series.
With the win and the Red Sox's loss, the Astros clinched home-field advantage for the ALDS. Combined with the Indians' loss to the Twins, the Astros moved to within one game of the Indians for the best record in the AL, though Cleveland owns the tiebreaker and would get the No. 1 seed in the AL if the two teams finish with the same record.
"We're having fun playing the game right now," said third baseman Alex Bregman, who went 3-for-5. "I think that was one of the more fun games we played all year. Everybody was loose, having a good time, and the runs were piling up. We're feeling good at the right time of the year, and I'm excited to be a part of this team."
The Astros (97-60) tied the 1999 club for the second most wins in franchise history, trailing only the 1998 team (102-60). They also matched the 2001 team with their club-record-tying 49th road win of the season, with five road games remaining.
"There was a lot that went on tonight, most of it in our favor," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Our guys keep playing. It's nice to get them off the field for a half a game, at least a lot of them. It's nice for Dallas to finish six innings and get his 100-pitch count and then get a couple of guys some innings. No complaints tonight."
Rangers starter Cole Hamels (11-5) allowed the first five hitters in the game to reach, and four of them scored. He was chased after three-plus innings, allowing six runs, six hits and four walks in his first loss at home (7-1) this year.
"The performance that I put out was just not the type of performance I would've liked, especially to finally be feeling in a really good rhythm and put up a couple good games the last couple weeks," Hamels said. "Everything just flew off the wall, and I couldn't recover. And that does hurt. Four runs in the beginning, it just does not allow for any sort of momentum ... for the fans to have to sit back and watch, it's not fun."
Houston added two runs in the fourth, five runs in the fifth and three runs in the sixth to take a 14-1 lead. Bregman and Carlos Correa (3-for-5) led the way for the Astros, who scored their most runs in a game in Arlington in club history.
"We had a ton of good at-bats right away and put some pressure on him right away," Hinch said. "A lot of good pitchers, or great pitchers, you need to get early if you're going to get them. ... We put a ton of pressure on him the first couple of innings where we didn't let up."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Correa knocks them in: The first five batters of the game reached against Hamels, but it was Correa's two-run double that got the scoring started for the Astros. That was also the start of a big night for Correa, who had two doubles, a run scored and three RBIs. He's 7-for-16 with six RBIs in his past four games.
Call him Maybin:Cameron Maybin, who entered the game in a 2-for-30 slump, followed a two-run homer by Brian McCann in the fifth with a triple. He came around to score on the play when Rangers center fielder Carlos Gomez made an errant throw. His time of 15.48 seconds around the bases is the fastest home-to-home time Statcast™ has ever recorded from the Astros and 11th fastest in MLB this season. Maybin added a home run -- his 10th of the season -- in his next at-bat.
"It's always a lot more fun to trot, but it's fun, too, to run around the bases," Maybin said. "I felt fast tonight. It's always fun when I open it up a little bit. You don't get that opportunity very often, so it's fun when you get to open it up and show the speed off a little bit."
"I've been feeling better and better. I feel like to the point of I'm back in midseason form. That's good to feel, good for myself." -- Keuchel
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Delino DeShields ended up with an inside-the-park home run in the sixth inning when his long drive to center hit off the wall and bounded away from Maybin, who was slow to recover after falling to the ground. That was more than enough time for DeShields, who circled the bases in 15.05 seconds. That's the fifth fastest home-to-home time in the big leagues this season. This was the second inside-the-park home run for the Rangers, following one by Joey Gallo on June 21. The last time the Rangers had two in one season was 1997 from Marc Sagmoen and Damon Buford.
"As soon as somebody turns their back, I'm thinking three, at least," DeShields said. "But he missed it at the wall, and I just put my head down and booked it around the bases, pretty much. I felt like it was pretty smooth until going over third base. I almost tripped over myself."
WHAT'S NEXT Astros:Justin Verlander (14-8, 3.38 ERA) makes his fifth and final regular-season start in Wednesday's 1:05 p.m. CT series finale against the Rangers. Verlander is 4-0 with a 0.64 ERA in four starts with the Astros since an Aug. 31 trade brought him over from the Tigers.
Rangers:Nick Martinez (3-7, 5.42) starts the series finale on Wednesday at Globe Life Park. He's 0-3 with a 4.63 ERA over his past four starts, but he's been stung by a lack of run support. In three of those games, the Rangers have scored just one run. Preview >>