By MoiseKapenda Bower, The Sports Xchange
HOUSTON — With the wind wreaking havoc on batted balls to center and left field, Texas Rangers third baseman Joe Gallo did what any perceptive power hitter would do given the circumstances and conditions: He went deep to right-center.
Gallo crushed a two-run home run in the eighth inning to both stem the Houston Astros’ tide and initiate a late surge as the Rangers salvaged the finale of this four-game series with a 10-4 win on Thursday at Minute Maid Park.
Gallo followed a leadoff double from Carlos Gomez with his ninth homer, launching the first pitch from Astros right-hander Luke Gregerson to the back wall of the home bullpen in right-center field for an 8-4 lead.
The Astros fashioned late-inning comebacks to win on Monday and Tuesday nights, so the Rangers were intimately familiar with the need to pile on runs as a precaution.
“It kind of pads the lead a little bit, especially in a ballpark like this,” said Gallo, who finished 2-for-5 with three RBIs. “You can’t have too many runs. They come in bunches here; popups end up going out. Today was a little bit different. The wind was kind of blowing in, but you can never have enough runs.”
Gregerson later allowed an RBI single to Delino DeShields as Texas (12-17) scored three runs in the eighth to reclaim the momentum the Astros had built with their methodical push to within 6-4 in the seventh. Shortstop Elvis Andrus tacked on his fifth home run off Astros right-hander Michael Feliz in the top of the ninth.
Astros right-hander Joe Musgrove (1-3) surrendered four runs in the first inning plus a sacrifice fly to Nomar Mazara in the second that built the Texas lead to 5-1. Astros left fielder Marwin Gonzalez ignited the push back with his fourth home run of the series leading off the fourth inning to slice the deficit to three runs.
Houston loaded the bases with less than two outs in the sixth and seventh innings but failed to get a big hit in those situations, scoring just a run in each frame. Second baseman Jose Altuve hit into a double play against Rangers reliever Jeremy Jeffress to squash the momentum in the sixth inning. Carlos Beltran, whose pinch sacrifice fly accounted for the run in the sixth, struck out with the bases loaded against Keone Kela to end the threat in the seventh.
The Astros finished 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position and stranded 16.
“We are pretty good with runners in scoring positions and today, obviously, we gave ourselves a lot of opportunities and it’s easy to say what if or how the game would have changed if we were able to come up with a big hit with bases loaded,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “If we keep giving ourselves this many opportunities, we are going to like the outcome.”
Rangers right-hander A.J. Griffin (3-0) allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits and one walk with seven strikeouts over five innings. And while four Texas relievers made things strenuous before Gallo provided some needed insurance, Griffin remained unbeaten in eight career starts against the Astros (19-10).
“It felt pretty good,” Griffin said of his return from the 10-day disabled list. “I didn’t get to pitch very much the past few weeks. I started getting tired a little bit there but I felt like we built the pitch count (88 pitches) up again and so I should be better off next time.”
Rougned Odor smashed his fifth home run two batters into the first inning, and Gallo followed four batters after that with an RBI single that scored Mazara. Mike Napoli added a two-run double off Musgrove to boost the Rangers’ lead to 4-0.
“That first inning, six out of the eight guys, I was ahead 0-2 or 1-2 and those are the guys I’ve got to get out and that seems to have been my problem lately in the last couple of outings is getting ahead early and just not being able to put guys away,” Musgrove said.