Astros jolt Rangers, salvage finale of series in Florida
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Astros are headed home to Houston, finishing a three-game neutral-site series at Tropicana Field with a 5-1 victory over the Texas Rangers on Thursday afternoon.
Houston (80-53), which moved 780 miles from home due to extensive flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, received strong pitching to shut down a potent Rangers offense that had scored 20 runs in the first two games of the series.
Texas (66-67) couldn't close out the series sweep as it tries to stay close in a tight American League wild-card picture.
Leading 2-1 in the eighth inning, the Astros struck for three runs to find some separation. Alex Bregman had an RBI single to score Jake Marisnick, who had walked, stolen second and taken third on a wild pitch. With two outs, Derek Fisher came through with a two-run single off Alex Claudio to extend Houston's lead to 5-1.
The game was the third and final neutral-site game played at the home of the Tampa Bay Rays, who are on the road this week. Fans could buy general-admission tickets for $10, and Thursday's game drew an announced crowd of 3,385.
Both teams are now headed home to Texas. The Astros will play a three-game series with the Mets, starting with a Saturday doubleheader, while the Rangers go home for a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels.
Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre left the game with a strained left hamstring in the seventh inning. Beltre had fielded a ground ball and was about the throw to first when he pulled up quickly, resulting in an infield single. Beltre walked off the field on his own, with Drew Robinson coming in from left field to replace him as part of a three-way defensive switch.
Beltre, who got his 3,000th career hit last month, will undergo an MRI exam on Friday to determine the severity of the injury.
Astros reliever Chris Devenski (7-3), who pitched 2 1/3 innings of hitless, scoreless relief, earned the victory after starter Collin McHugh couldn't finish the fifth. Ken Giles pitched the final two innings without allowing a hit or run as well to earn his 27th save.
The Rangers saw the first batter of the game score, as Shin-Soo Choo singled, took second on a passed ball and third on a wild pitch before scoring on Nomar Mazara's RBI groundout to first for a 1-0 lead.
The Astros had a controversial call in the first inning, as Bregman was called for interference on a throw to second base. George Springer had singled to lead off the game and was attempting to steal second, but Bregman struck out swinging and his momentum carried him in front of the plate, and he was called for interference, resulting in Springer being out despite beating the throw to second.
Houston manager A.J. Hinch came out to argue the call and was ejected for the first time this season.
With the bases cleared, Jose Altuve followed with a solo home run -- his 21st of the year -- to tie the game at 1 in the first. That tie would stand until the fourth, when Bregman singled, stole second and scored on Josh Reddick's RBI single for a 2-1 lead.
Texas had a chance to tie the game in the fifth -- Brett Nicholas singled and Mazara had a two-out double to put runners at second and third, but Carlos Beltran lined out to Springer in right field to end the inning.
Texas starter Nick Martinez kept the Astros in check -- they were outscored 20-3 in the first two games -- and held Houston to two runs on five hits in his five innings, striking out six batters. McHugh didn't make it through the fifth inning, holding Texas to one run on four hits but leaving after 91 pitches.
NOTES: During the game, the Astros acquired OF Cameron Maybin off waivers from the Angels. Maybin, 30, is only hitting .235 this season but has 29 steals, tying him with new teammate Jose Altuve for the American League lead. The Astros will pay the remainder of his $9 million salary. No corresponding move was announced. ... Houston INF Yuli Gurriel, who left Wednesday's game with right knee soreness, sat out Thursday's game. Manager A.J. Hinch had said he was day-to-day.