HOUSTON -- After the Rangers took a commanding three-run lead with help from two Ian Kinsler home runs at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday night, it seemed as if the bats decided to let starter Colby Lewis do the rest of the work against the lowly Astros. Lewis did until the seventh inning, when he allowed two runs. But the Rangers' bullpen ended any more drama as Darren Oliver, Mark Lowe and Neftali Feliz closed the show on the Astros in a 3-2 victory.
The Rangers clinched the Lone Star series for the sixth consecutive time with the win. Texas has won four of five games against Houston this season, with the series finale coming Thursday night. The Rangers have also won eight consecutive games in this ballpark.
Bullpen saves the day:Before the game, Nolan Ryan was asked if he was concerned about the bullpen. Ryan said he wasn't worried bacause a few pitchers might be coming back from injury to help out and the current group was doing a pretty good job. The Rangers made Ryan's comments look good Wednesday night. Oliver relieved Lewis with one out in the seventh. With two on and two out, Oliver retired right-handed pinch-hitter Jason Michaels on a grounder to short. Oliver was brought in to pitch to left-handed Brian Bogusevic, but after he was announced, Astros manager Brad Mills went with Michaels. Oliver got himself out of a jam in the eighth. A leadoff single by Michael Bourn started things, but Oliver picked him off. One out later, manager Ron Washington asked right-hander Mark Lowe to seal the deal. Lowe struck out Hunter Pence on a pitch out of the strike zone to end the inning. When Lowe walked back to the dugout, Washington was on the top step clapping and gave his reliever a high-five and a slap on the chest. Feliz struck out the last two hitters he faced after walking Carlos Lee to start the ninth to earn his 16th save of the season. Feliz struck out Brett Wallace and catcher Yorvit Torrealba threw out Lee trying to steal second base to end the game.
Kinsler on a tear:Yes, it's only two games, but leadoff man Ian Kinsler has been hitting the ball well here. On Wednesday night, Kinsler went 2-for-4 with home runs in his first two at-bats (he homered in his last at-bat Tuesday). Kinsler got the offense going with a homer in the first, the fourth time this season he's done that and the 17th leadoff shot of his career. His third-inning homer, a rocket to left, gave him his eighth career two-homer game. Kinsler's second blast gave the Rangers a 3-0 lead. The second baseman came into the series with four hits in his last 22 at-bats, but through the first two games is 4-for-7 with five RBIs, three home runs, a triple and one walk.
Lewis with solid outing:Colby Lewis (7-7) put forth another strong outing and retired the Astros in order until a two-out single by Hunter Pence in the fourth inning. But Lewis retired eight of the next nine hitters he faced until Carlos Lee homered to left in the seventh to cut the Rangers' lead to 3-1. It was Lee's first homer since June 7. Lewis went 6 2/3 innings and left with a 3-2 lead. He gave up two runs -- both earned -- on six hits and struck out six. It was the third consecutive start Lewis left with the lead.
Probables for Florida Marlins series:
Saturday: Derek Holland vs. TBA