HOUSTON — There was a certain amount of pleasure taken by Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister in his ability to start finesse left-hander Cesar Ramos on Saturday night — only to feature a trio of fire-balling relievers once Ramos delivered a lead to the bullpen in the seventh inning.
Ramos secured his first victory on the season and the Rangers, armed with a stout and reconfigured bullpen, claimed a second consecutive 2-1 victory over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Ramos (1-2) effectively utilized his assortment of offerings to stifle the Astros for six innings, allowing one run on two hits and one walk with four strikeouts. He needed just 80 pitches to complete his efficient stint, working long and effectively enough to depart with a one-run lead.
“I just took advantage of their aggressiveness from the first inning,” Ramos said. “They pretty much told me they’re not up there to take any pitches. They’re up there to swing as hard as they can, and for me, I just kept them off-balance and guessing. Just tried to mix all my pitches, and today for the most part they were going for strikes and
using that to my advantage.”
The trio of Matt Bush, Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson didn’t waste Ramos’ start, with Bush pumping high-90s fastballs by the Astros (17-27) in the seventh inning before Diekman worked a perfect eighth, embarrassing both Marwin Gonzalez and Jason Castro with strikeouts.
Dyson emerged in the ninth and earned his fourth save by handcuffing the top of the Houston batting order, recording groundball outs from Jose Altuve and George Springer before striking out Carlos Correa.
“It’s a different look,” Banister said. “Cesar’s more finesse, strikes on the edges and then the combination of the secondary stuff with the off-speed, especially with the slow breaking ball. And then to bring in the power of Bush-Diekma-Dyson, it was fun to watch tonight that trio of pitchers throwing the back end.
“Cesar gave us what we looked for, what we wanted. Obviously offensively we’d like to create a little bit more separation but we didn’t, so those three guys locked it down and finished it off for us.”
The Rangers (24-19) improved to 5-0 against the Astros this season and set the stage for a sweep with ace Cole Hamels starting Sunday. The Astros have dropped three consecutive one-run games by a 2-1 score.
“We’ve had our trouble scoring the last few games, really putting any sort of offense together,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “They faced three over the minimum; that’s not a good recipe for run-scoring.”
One night after recording his first extra-base hit following a 10-game stretch without one, Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus smacked his first homer on the season. His two-out shot to left field off Astros right-hander Mike Fiers (3-2) in the second inning provided Texas a 1-0 lead.
The Rangers doubled that advantage in the third, with Rougned Odor drilling a single off the right-field wall to plate catcher Bryan Holaday, who doubled with one out one at-bat earlier.
Odor unwisely attempted to stretch his single into a double and was easily erased by an accurate throw from Springer in right field to Altuve at second base.
The Astros mustered a response in the third, with Gonzalez blasting a 411-foot home run to center field, his fourth on the season to slice the deficit in half.
But that was the extent of their production as the Astros wasted a solid start from Fiers, who allowed two runs on six hits with six strikeouts over seven innings, as well as a handful of sparking defensively plays, including two by center fielder Jake Marisnick in the fourth.
“I settled down pretty much,” Fiers said. “There were a couple bloopers here and there. I thought I pitched a decent game. We just didn’t score as many as they did.”