After a disappointing loss, the Rangers are hoping to make up some lost ground by picking up a ninth straight win over the lowly Astros on Monday night.
Texas (84-71) will have to regroup after Justin Maxwell belted a walkoff grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning to lead Kansas City to a 4-0 victory Sunday.
While Oakland clinched the AL West with the Rangers' loss, Texas fell 1 1/2 games behind Cleveland for the second wild-card spot with seven contests remaining. The Indians wrapped up a four-game sweep over Houston (51-105) on Sunday.
"Our season has definitely been up and down, but we have to put that behind us and finish strong," outfielder Craig Gentry told the MLB's official website. "Right now, every game means something."
An inconsistent performance at the plate has been partly to blame for the Rangers' swoon this month. After getting shut out for the third time in September, they're averaging 3.4 runs and batting .246 while dropping 15 of 20.
Texas, however, should feel confident about turning things around against the major league-worst Astros. The Rangers have averaged 6.5 runs and hit .280 while winning 14 of 16 meetings.
Still, they're not about to overlook Houston.
"You just can't throw your glove out there," manager Ron Washington warned. "You've got to go out and play."
Slugger Adrian Beltre has done much of the damage against the Astros, hitting .444 with five homers, six doubles and 13 RBIs in his last 14 meetings. He's also 3 for 3 with two doubles against Houston starter Jordan Lyles (7-8, 5.26 ERA) this season.
After going 3-1 with a 3.31 ERA in his previous five starts, Lyles was tagged for nine runs - seven earned - and eight hits over 3 1-3 innings in Tuesday's 10-0 loss to Cincinnati.
"You're going to look at your body of work, but finishing positive would be good for all these guys the last time through the rotation," manager Bo Porter said.
The right-hander hasn't had much success versus the Rangers, going 0-4 with an 8.54 ERA in five career meetings. In his only start against them this season, Lyles was pounded for eight runs and 11 hits over four innings in a 12-7 loss May 12.
Texas counters with Derek Holland (9-9, 3.48), who is 0-5 with a 4.53 ERA in nine starts at Rangers Ballpark since May 31.
Holland also has a 5.08 ERA while allowing 19 walks and nine home runs over a career-worst, eight-start winless drought. He pitched better in his last start, allowing two runs over six innings in Wednesday's 4-3, 12-inning loss at Tampa Bay.
The left-hander has allowed five runs over 12 innings in two Texas victories over the Astros. He did not fare in either decision, however, while receiving six total runs of support.
This time, he faces a Houston team that has been limited to 14 runs and a .136 average with runners in scoring position during a season-worst nine-game skid.
The Astros, who have clinched their third straight 100-loss season, are two defeats away from matching the single-season franchise record, set last year.
|September 19, 2013||Matt Dominguez||Day-to-Day||Hand|
|September 17, 2013||Jason Castro||15-Day DL||Cyst on right knee|
|September 08, 2013||Paul Clemens||Day-to-Day||Blister, right hand|
|September 02, 2013||Jason Castro||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right knee sprain|
|August 22, 2013||Max Stassi||15-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 21, 2013||Max Stassi||Day-to-Day||Left game - head|
|September 09, 2013||Jim Adduci||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right biceps|
|September 09, 2013||Yu Darvish||Day-to-Day||Left game - right leg cramping|
|August 25, 2013||Leonys Martin||Day-to-Day||Sprained right ankle|
|August 20, 2013||Matt West||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|August 14, 2013||Alexi Ogando||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|August 14, 2013||Alexi Ogando||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Alex Rios stood in front of an empty bottle of champagne while he answered questions about the first cycle of his career.
He's hoping there might be a few more bottles in the near future for the Texas Rangers .
Rios hit for the cycle, Derek Holland struck out nine in his second shutout of the season and the Rangers started their final push for a playoff spot with a 12-0 victory over the Houston Astros on Monday night.
The Rangers pulled within a game of idle Cleveland for the second AL wild-card berth with six games remaining. They are two games behind wild-card leader Tampa Bay, which beat Baltimore 5-4 on Monday.
If they want to celebrate a fourth straight season in the playoffs, the Rangers will have to keep it up in the final two games against the Astros and a four-game finishing series against the Los Angeles Angels - all at home.
"We have to focus on the things that we have to do to win a game at a time," said Rios, who completed the cycle in his only four at-bats and drove in four runs. "It doesn't do any good for us to look at what's happening around us."
Rios finished the cycle with a triple to right-center field in the sixth inning, pulling into third standing up without a throw and later scoring to put Texas up 11-0. He doubled in the first inning, had an infield single in the third and hit his 18th homer for a 9-0 lead in the fourth.
He didn't get a chance for a fifth hit. Engel Beltre replaced him in right field in the seventh as one of the mass substitutions in a game that was out of hand early. Both teams used 14 players.
"You wish that in your career that you could have done that," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "It worked out perfectly for him. He hit it in the perfect part of the field and with his speed he was able to do it."
Holland (10-9) got his 10th win in his ninth try since his last victory on Aug. 4. The left-hander won at home for the first time since May 31.
Houston starter Jordan Lyles (7-9) gave up seven hits and seven runs with three walks in three innings.
Rios looked like he wanted to get the triple of the way in the first inning, going about 25 feet beyond the bag at second before pulling up on a two-run double. He had his fourth RBI on the triple, bringing home Elvis Andrus .
The first cycle of Rios' career was the seventh in Rangers' history. Adrian Beltre was the last to do it, last Aug. 24 against Seattle.
It was the third cycle in the majors this year - Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels on May 21 and the Astros' Brandon Barnes on July 19, both against Seattle.
"Just a good night at the plate," Rios said. "But the most important thing is that we won tonight."
Three of the six singles allowed by Holland didn't leave the infield. He's a 10-game winner for the third straight season. His other shutout was a two-hitter in a 2-0 win over the New York Yankees on June 27.
Lyles was gone after a four-run third that ended on a three-run double by Leonys Martin , who was thrown out trying to go to third on a ball that went to the wall near the 407-foot sign in right-center field.
"We always joke about how I don't get much run support," Holland said. "It was good to see those guys do everything they did."
The Astros pushed their season strikeout total to 1,477 - more than 100 ahead of No. 2 Minnesota on that list. Houston locked up its third straight season of at least 106 losses and needs one more to match last year's franchise record.
"We've had some rough games," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "They took it to us."
NOTES: Rios' homer snapped a six-game streak without a long ball for Texas at Rangers Ballpark. ... Astros rookie C Max Stassi rejoined the team in the same ballpark where he was hit by a pitch in the jaw and missed a month with a concussion. Stassi hasn't played since Aug. 21 at Rangers Ballpark, where a pitch from Texas reliever Tanner Scheppers glanced off his left shoulder and hit him in the jaw the day after his major league debut. ... Beltre, Texas' leader in average, homers and RBIs, went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts, although he did have a sacrifice fly.