Maybe this is a penance for all the lousy games these two teams played last year. For a second straight night at Globe Life Park, the Astros and Rangers went to extra innings Saturday night. Jose Altuve’s deep fly to right brought home pinch-runner Marwin Gonzalez with the tie-breaking run in a 6-5 win that took 10 innings. Jason Castro tripled with one out to right field off righty Joakim Soria, and Altuve brought Gonzalez in three pitches later. There was no play at the plate. The Astros, who once led by three runs, had just blown a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the ninth on Michael Choice’s solo homer — the first homer of his career. The Astros looked pitiful against the Rangers a year ago, winning just two of 19 games in their season series. They’re halfway to that mark now, and could actually win the three-game series with a victory Sunday afternoon. The Rangers didn’t make the final three outs easy, either. But the Astros didn’t fold as they might have in the past. There’s no such thing as a statement game in April for a team that’s 5-7, but this series has been revealing. “I think the Rangers and all the other teams see that we’re going to be a lot more competitive this year, just with how we’ve been playing early,” Astros starter Jarred Cosart said. “We’ve lost some close games and we’re making a lot less mental mistakes than we did last year.” The Rangers had a runner on second with none out in the bottom of the 10th, but righty Anthony Bass worked out of the jam with the help of a fantastic diving play by shortstop Jonathan Villar. Villar dove to his left to rob Alex Rios, who tagged a one-hopper deep in the hole, for the first out. “Now I’m not hitting. I want to play for everybody — not only me,” said Villar, 0-for-4. “It’s for the team … (Altuve and Cesar Izturis) told me, if you’re not hitting now, today, tomorrow, you got defense.” The final out was made by Choice, the hero one inning earlier, on a ground out. Before the 10th inning rally, the Astros’ bullpen looked a bit like last year’s. The trouble started in the eighth, after starter Cosart’s excellent seven innings ended with a career-high eight strikeouts and a 5-3 lead. Matt Albers allowed one run in the eighth inning on an Elvis Andrus double to make it 5-4. Choice, the first batter in the bottom of the ninth and a pinch-hitter, tied the game at 5 on an opposite field homer off lefty Kevin Chapman. Manager Bo Porter turned to the lefty Chapman to start the inning because two left-handed batters due up: Mitch Moreland (first up) and Leonys Martin (third). But the Rangers went right to their bench. “Just felt like that was a good pocket for him, even though we knew they had some pinch-hitters,” Porter said of Chapman. “Choice put a good swing on the fastball out over the plate, give him credit.” Baseball’s funny: Chapman was the winning pitcher.
Astros top Rangers in 10th inning
Houston Chronicle | Apr 13