ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Jeff Mathis hit a tie-breaking, three-run home run and Leody Taveras followed with a solo blast in a five-run seventh inning as the Texas Rangers beat the playoff-bound Houston Astros 6-1 on Saturday night.
Mathis homered to left center, his third of the season, against rookie Brandon Bielak (3-3) before Taveras hit his fourth off fellow rookie Andre Scrubb. Rougned Odor added a two-out RBI single.
The Astros are in the playoffs for a club-record fourth straight year and the fifth time in the last six seasons,. The defending American League champions clinched second place in the AL West late Friday night when the Los Angeles Angels lost.
Houston rested almost one-third of its regular position players and pulled starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. after four scoreless innings. Michael Brantley, Carlos Correa and Martin Maldonado were given Saturday off, and Yuli Gurriel left after two at-bats.
“Fourth straight year going to the postseason is no joke, and that’s something to be proud of,” said McCullers, who is scheduled to start Thursday's Game 3 of the wild-card series, “but we’ve got to put it together a little better in the postseason this year.”
Jimmy Herget (1-0) earned his first major league win after allowing the Astros to tie the score 1-1 in the seventh when Jack Mayfield’s sacrifice fly to center scored Aledmys Diaz, who led off the inning with a double into the right-field corner.
The Rangers have won consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 8-9 while the Astros have lost two straight for the first time since Sept. 9-10.
Mathis, who started about one-third of Texas' games this season, hasn't hit three homers in a season since hitting five in 2013 for the Miami Marlins. His homer on Saturday followed a failed attempt at a sacrifice bunt.
“I offered at a pitch that was ball four,” Mathis said. “Should have walked, but ended up working out.”
McCullers extended his streak of innings without allowing an earned run to 17 2/3. He allowed only two singles and one walk and struck out a season-high nine, including the final five outs he recorded.
McCullers returned this season after missing 2019 because of Tommy John surgery. He pitched well down the stretch after suffering nerve irritation caused by a plane trip in early August.
“I'm damn proud of myself,” McCullers said, “I think that eight-start sample size (closing the season) is an indication of the pitcher I am.”
Nick Solak’s two-out RBI single to left in the bottom of the sixth scored the game’s first run and put Rangers starter Kyle Gibson in position to win after throwing six scoreless innings and scattering six hits. Gibson’s ERA in five previous home starts this season was 7.18.
Astros third base coach Gary Pettis has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma and will miss the rest of the 2020 season. Pettis, 62, is expected to make a full recovery. ... Houston manager Dusty Baker plans to return Brantley and Correa to the lineup Sunday and have Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel come out early. ... At 21-38, the Rangers (.356) will finish with the second-worst record in the majors, ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and must win Sunday's finale to avoid finishing with the worst winning percentage in Texas history. The original 1972 Rangers finished 54-100 for .351. ... Joey Gallo went 2-for-4 for his first multi-hit game since Sept. 12.
Rangers: OF-DH Shin-Soo Choo, 38, said he would like to play in Sunday’s Texas season finale and beyond. He has been sidelined since Sept. 7 with a sprained right wrist and doesn’t want to finish the season on the injured list. His seven-year Texas contract expires at the end of the season. His .229 batting average is a career low.
“I can still play the game,” Choo said.
Astros: RHP Chase De Jong (0-0, 14.73 ERA) will make his second start and third appearance this season, his first since Sept. 8.
Rangers: RHP Jordan Lyles (1-6, 7.08) began his major league career with the Astros (2011-13). He allowed seven runs on 10 hits in five innings at Arizona on Tuesday.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports