ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas manager Jeff Banister has preached all season about the importance of the Rangers defending the home turf.
It took more than half the season but finally the congregation woke up and listened.
Texas completed a three-game sweep of Houston with a 4-3 victory Wednesday night. The win capped a 10-game stand against three teams that were all at least 10-games over .500, and the Rangers went through the stand with a 7-3 mark.
Wednesday's win moved the Rangers over .500 for the first time since July 3, got them within five games of first place for the first time since June 30 and may have given the Rangers the push they needed for the final two months.
It wasn't an easy one for sure, as Texas needed six pitchers to finish off Houston and the Rangers worked around eight walks and a hit batter. But once Carlos Correa hit into a fielder's choice of Sam Dyson to end the game, the Rangers had their first sweep of a series of at least three games since winning at the New York Yankees May 22-24.
"It put a lot of energy in that dugout and on that field and solidifies the belief in where these guys think they can go, the confidence they have," Banister said. "We've talked about playing at home and being able to win at home and playing clean baseball, so it was a big series for us, not only at home but the one that's in first place and one of the ball clubs we're trying to run down."
Wednesday night's scenario played out a lot like the first two games in the series. The only starter for Texas to go six innings in the series was Colby Lewis, and he allowed seven earned runs in his six frames. Nick Martinez only went five innings Wednesday, allowing just one hit but walking three.
That put the onus on the bullpen to once again save the lead for a starter. Wednesday it was four relievers doing the job, with Sam Dyson closing things out with regular closer Shawn Tolleson unavailable. The bullpen gave up two runs in the sixth inning Wednesday with Texas up 4-1, but the bottom line is the job got accomplished again.
That made Martinez, who threw 86 pitches in his five innings, a very happy man on his 25th birthday.
"We brought in the reinforcements and we were able to shut the door on a big win," said Martinez, who retired 10 of the first 12 batters he faced with the other two reaching on walks. "This time of the year every win matters. It's a good time to have reinforcements."
The reinforcements were needed because the Rangers did something that few teams have been able to do â score runs on Houston starter Scott Kazmir. The left-hander allowed just six hits in 5 2/3 innings, but the Rangers were able to take advantage of Houston miscues to build a 3-0 lead off him in the first inning.
Two Houston errors, including one by Kazmir, helped pave the way for RBI from Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus. Chris Gimenez gave Kazmir the only earned run on his ledger with a solo homer to center in the second that made it a 4-0 game.
That would be it for scoring opportunities for the Rangers, but it was enough on a night they had just seven hits (six singles).
But no one was complaining about how they won Wednesday's game once it was over. Just like they haven't after any of the other six wins on the stand.
"It means a lot," Andrus said. "From now on this is the way we have to play, one day at a time, don't try to do too much and enjoy it. It was a really great homestand for us and now we have to keep playing that way on the road."
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