The American League West’s second-place team had the first-place team on the ropes on June 14, leading 3-0 with just six more outs for victory, but Rangers reliever John King got rocked in the bottom of the eighth as he allowed three earned runs in just .1 innings pitched for an Astros 4-3 win over Texas.
“Boy, that was probably, might be, the victory of the year,” Astros manager Dusty Baker told MLB.com. “I can’t remember a more exciting finish than that. We needed that badly. We’re in position to hopefully win the rubber match tomorrow.”
One person likely less impressed with the Astros’ win was Rangers manager Chris Woodward. He said the Rangers need to play “clean baseball each night,” and the team has the ability and personnel to do that.
“King’s had his ups and downs, but he’s been one of our better pitchers,” Woodward said.
The Rangers — who one night before peeled off four unanswered runs to capture game one of a three-game set with the Astros — picked up where they left off from Monday night and stitched together a 3-0 lead through the first four innings of play.
Texas struck again in the bottom of the fourth when Nathaniel Lowe belted homer number eight on the season, scoring Adolis Garcia, who led the inning off with a single. Lowe’s longball earned him his 24th RBI on the season and extended the Texas lead to 3-0 halfway through the contest.
Dane Dunning tossed six scoreless innings in the Rangers loss, allowing two hits while walking four and fanning just as many. Dunning was replaced by Matt Bush – AKA “Matty Ice” — who pitched a perfect seventh inning in which he struck out two and earned his seventh hold of the season.
And then the wheels fell off.
King yielded two singles (and a run on a fielder’s choice) in the top of the eighth before Kyle Tucker hit a three-run blast to take the lead 4-3. King earned one out in the inning before the homerun. After the game-tying score, King gave way to Rangers reliever Dennis Santana who retired the next two Houston hitters.
Garrett Richards pitched a perfect ninth inning for Texas, where he fanned one.
Kole Calhoun opened the bottom of the ninth with a single for Texas, but Sam Huff hit into a double play to erase the potential game-tying run. Lowe singled his way on board one batter later, but Duran hit a pop-out for the final out of the game. Lowe went 3-for-4 on the day, the only Ranger with multiple hits in the loss, and pushed his batting average to .281 on the season.
King earned the loss in the game, and his record falls to 1-3 with an ERA of 5.19.
The Rangers will look to take the series from the Astros on June 15 in Arlington starting at 1:05 p.m. on “Texas Chili Company Dollar Hot Dog Night” at the ballpark.
The contest’s probable starting pitchers are Luis Garcia (3-5, 3.60) and Tyson Miller (0-0, 0.00.) If Miller is penciled in for the starting nod, it would be the 26-year-old’s second career start and first as a Ranger.