The Rangers were building momentum. They took the lead with one swing when Leonys Martin, in a 4-for-22 skid, lined a double past Astros right fielder L.J. Hoes to the wall to clear the bases for a 4-3 lead. Ian Kinsler and Alex Rios followed with RBI singles for a 6-3 lead.
Just like that, the Rangers were on their way to their 17th win of the season against their in-state rivals. And, yes, still staying within striking distances of the Rays and Indians with four games to go in what is shaping up to be one of the most exciting races in which the Rangers have been.
The Rangers remained two games behind Tampa Bay and a game behind Cleveland in the chase for the two wild-card spots. It's frustrating for the Rangers that the Rays and Indians are both riding five-game winning streaks. Shortstop Elvis Andrus admitted that again Wednesday night.
But the Rangers aren't buckling under the pressure of needing to win.
"We put ourselves in this position," Kinsler said. "We need to win some games and get some help."
Martin's game-turning hit was surprising just because he has struggled as the season winds down to the final handful of games. He is batting .229 in September in his first full year in the big leagues.
But he was ready for Keuchel in the key at-bat in the game. Martin was looking for a slider and he ripped it.
"I was definitely looking for that pitch," Martin said. "The last at-bat, he struck me out with that same pitch, so I was waiting for that pitch. Thank god he threw me that same pitch and I was able to square it up."
Martin and the Rangers handed the lead back to rookie starter Martin Perez, who had given up the lead in the top of the inning on an RBI single by Chris Carter and a two-run home run by Brandon Laird.
Perez was visibly upset on the mound. But once he got the lead, he refocused and dominated. He retired nine of the last 12 batters he faced and made it through seven innings, allowing manager Ron Washington to hold back key pieces of his bullpen.
"I told myself, 'Don't worry about the runs,'" Perez said. "I had to focus and do what I have to do to get seven innings. I felt emotion, and when I do that I have to realize I'm the best pitcher on the mound."