Astros top Rangers to avert series sweep
HOUSTON -- Marwin Gonzalez has long provided the Astros exceptional, and often underappreciated, value as a utility performer but on Wednesday night, his contributions both at the plate and in the field were impossible to overlook.
After playing three infield positions due to injuries, Gonzalez delivered a two-run single in the eighth inning to provide needed insurance for the Houston Astros, who averted a series sweep by defeating the Texas Rangers 8-4 at Minute Maid Park.
Gonzalez rolled a single off Texas right-hander Tanner Scheppers just under the glove of shortstop Elvis Andrus and into center field, driving home Tyler White and Yulieski Gurriel to extend the Astros' tenuous one-run lead to 7-4. Rookie right-hander Chris Devenski worked a scoreless ninth inning for the Astros (76-70), who concluded a miserable season series against the Rangers (87-60) on a high note.
Texas won the season series 15-4 and lost for just the sixth time in the last 29 series meetings.
After starting the game at first base, Gonzalez shifted to second base in the fourth inning when Jose Altuve was lost to right oblique discomfort after two plate appearances. Gonzalez moved to third in the seventh when Alex Bregman departed with right hamstring discomfort before making his way back to second in the eighth.
"I'm prepared to do that," said Gonzalez, who finished 1-for-4. "That's my role on the team to cover any spot. The most important thing is we won the game."
Texas took the series opener in extra innings before rallying for two runs with two outs in the ninth inning to win on Tuesday night. Texas clawed back from a four-run deficit in the finale, getting a two-run home run from Nomar Mazara, his 18th, in the seventh inning before catcher Jonathan Lucroy added an RBI single in the eighth.
"Attribute that to the way we play," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Our guys continue to grind through it. We have a comeback plan when we get down and our guys I felt like they were continuing to put that in play. We got it within one, felt like if we could keep it right there we have a shot."
Mazara stroked his blast off Astros rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove (3-4), who allowed three runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
Given the strain placed on their bullpen over the first two games of the series, what the Astros needed from Musgrove was length. Three batters into his start he appeared to be in trouble, surrendering an infield single to Ian Desmond before Carlos Beltran followed with a double that scored Desmond for a 1-0 Texas lead.
But after allowing consecutive two-out singles in the second, Musgrove found his footing. He retired nine consecutive batters two outs into the fifth inning, recording five strikeouts along with way. And, after he walked Carlos Gomez, Musgrove retired five successive batters before Nomar Mazara chased him in the seventh.
"It feels good to beat these guys," Musgrove said. "We have put up tough battles and given everything we had, and they have found ways to sneak out wins in the later innings. To have an offensive burst in the later innings like that is nice."
George Springer erased the deficit with his 27th homer in first, and in the second the Astros commenced to play add-on against Texas lefty Derek Holland (7-8).
Hernandez socked his fourth home run with two outs in the second, a two-run shot that scored Evan Gattis and put Houston ahead 3-1.
Holland seemed set to keep the deficit at two runs, retiring nine consecutive batters entering the sixth. But back-to-back singles from Yulieski Gurriel and Gattis, the second coming against Texas reliever Jose Leclerc, upped the Astros lead to 5-1.
"Obviously I didn't perform very well," Holland said. "I have to do better. Not pleased with what happened today. It's frustrating. There's not really much I can say. Just sucked."
NOTES: Class A Lancaster was eliminated from postseason play on Tuesday night in Game 4 of the California League South Division Finals. The JetHawks were one of two Astros' affiliates to qualify for the playoffs, joining Double-A Corpus Christi. ... With LHP Martin Perez and RHP A.J. Griffin pitching six-plus innings in consecutive starts, the Rangers opted to start LHP Derek Holland in the series finale instead of waiting for an opportunity to utilize him in long relief. Holland was moved to the bullpen over the weekend but did not make an appearance as a reliever. ... Rangers 1B Jurickson Profar was back in the starting lineup after being lifted as a precautionary measure in the bottom of the 12th inning on Tuesday night. Texas manager Jeff Banister didn't want Profar, who started at third base, involved in a critical defensive play with the game in the balance after witnessing him limping. Profar delivered the game-winning hit for Texas in the top of the 12th inning.