Andrus drives in another walkoff win

by Dan M | Posted on Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

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By Dic Humphrey

ARLINGTON – The Texas Rangers came away with their fifth walk-off win of the season Wednesday night as Elvis Andrus drove home the winning run with a ninth inning sacrifice fly to lead the Rangers to a 5-4 victory over Houston.

It was a sloppily played game with the Astros’ pitchers walking six batters, and Astros’ fielders making errors to plate two unearned runs for Texas.  Texas contributed also as Tanner Scheppers hit two batters with the bases loaded in the eighth inning to allow Houston to tie the game.

In the end though, Texas prevailed for their 14th win in 16 tries against the Astros.  The win was also the Rangers’ 15th against four losses in the month of August, and improved their record to 74-53, a season high 21 games over .500.  With Oakland losing earlier in the day, the Rangers’ lead in the American West is up to 2-1/2 games, their largest since May 31.

Early in the game, Derek Holland appeared to be on his way to another brilliant performance.  He basically breezed through six innings allowing three hits and a run on Jason Castro’s home run leading off the second inning.   In the seventh inning, Castro led off again with a sharply hit ground ball that struck Holland.  His game unraveled from there as he walked the next two batters to load the bases and end his night on the mound.

Joakim Soria relieved and coaxed a ground ball double play and a ground out to end the inning with just one of the inherited runners scoring.  Holland finished with two runs allowed over six innings pitched.  He gave up four hits, while striking out five and walking three.  The outing maintained his ERA at 2.95.  It was Holland’s 19th quality start of the season out of 26, which leads the team and ranks in the top 10 in the American League.  Holland is also in the American League’s top 10 in ERA, strikeouts, and innings pitched.  His chance for a win vanished in the eighth when Houston tied the game on the two hit batsmen, which was Scheppers’ first blown save and the Rangers eighth of the year.

Other than Scheppers blown save, with all the trouble oddly coming after two were out with no runners on base, the Rangers’ bullpen was really good.  Soria and Jason Frasor each entered the game with the bases loaded and allowed just one inherited runner of the six to score.  Joe Nathan pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the win, his fourth against two losses.

It was a big night for Craig Gentry, who has been overtaken in the race to start in center field by Leonys Martin.  Gentry walked and reached base on an error in addition to hitting his second home run of the year.  The speedy Arkansan scored three of the five Ranger runs and closed out the sixth inning with a marvelous catch that saved at least two runs.  Gentry got the start with lefty Erik Bedard on the mound for Houston.  He likely will see more playing time this weekend, as the Rangers face left-handed starters in the next four games.

Gentry was activated from the disabled list on July 19 and is hitting .333 since.  Manager Ron Washington commented about his speedster after the game saying, “(I’m) very impressed.  He’s coming around at the right time.  Good at bats.  Good defense.”

One of Gentry’s runs scored came on a squeeze bunt from Andrus in the seventh inning.  Washington admitted after the game that he thought about calling another squeeze in the ninth with Andrus again batting with a runner on third base.  “It crossed my mind,” he replied when asked.  In the end though, “I just kept my signs to myself.”

Texas is off Thursday and heads to Chicago for the weekend for three games with the White Sox.  The pitching matchups are Martin Perez (6-3, 3.49) verses Chris Sale (9-11, 2.79) on Friday, Yu Darvish (12-5, 2.68) against Hector Santiago (4-7, 3.27) on Saturday, and Matt Garza (9-2, 3.81) against John Danks (3-10, 4.22) on Sunday.  Friday’s game will be televised in the local market by Channel 21, while Saturday’s and Sunday’s will be shown on FOX Sports Net – Southwest.   The road trip continues next week with a three game set in Seattle before the Rangers return home for three games with Minnesota over Labor Day Weekend.

Notes: The Rangers are 41-16 against the West after Wednesday’s win, nine games better than Oakland’s 32-25. … Alex Rios stole second base in the sixth inning, his 30th steal of the year.  This is the third season in which he has stolen at least 30 bases. … The combined records of the Ranger farm clubs through Monday night are 384-302, a .560 winning percentage, which is third best in the Majors trailing San Francisco (.569) and Houston (.568). … Michael Kirkman threw five scoreless innings for Round Rock Wednesday.  With Robbie Ross struggling, Kirkman could become a left-handed option to replace Ross in the bullpen on the playoff roster it Texas qualifies. … After completion of the home stand, Rangers’ attendance is 2,547,198 for 65 home dates, an average of 39,187 per game.

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