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Rangers tighten in on Astros in exciting, doubtful AL West race

ARLINGTON, Texas — The idea of a Texas Rangers and Houston Astros battling it out for a AL West climax in mid-September is still a small tough to fathom around these parts.

For one, a clubs have been multiplication rivals for usually 3 years, with a Astros switching leagues in 2013. And given they began personification any other in 2001, usually once — 11 years ago — have both finished with winning records. Before this season, frequency anybody would have put income on this year imprinting a second such occurrence, as both teams wound adult some-more than 20 games underneath .500 in 2014.

But notwithstanding nearing during their particular spots in a standings by clearly opposite paths, a Texas dyad went into Monday’s opener of a four-game array 1-2 in a standings, formulating a heightened spin of ball seductiveness in a segment that typically turns a eyes toward football during this time of year.

The Rangers afterwards gave a internal fans copiousness of reason to keep profitable attention, relocating to within half a game of a multiplication lead with a stirring 5-3 feat powered by Prince Fielder’s eighth-inning homer.

It was a initial of 7 games in dual weeks between a clubs, and Rangers manager Jeff Banister pronounced a playoff atmosphere was clearly in a air.

“It felt like that in a gut, in a stands, in a dugout,” Banister said. “It was flattering special to see a sea of red in a stands tonight, and to have a fans on each singular pitch. It seemed like each time we got to dual strikes, they were adult on their feet entertaining and hollering. And these guys in a dugout, a appetite was unequivocally similar.”

With star lefties Cole Hamels and Scott Kazmir on a mound, a back-and-forth diversion orderly reflected a Rangers’ season, that began with a awful Apr (7-14), stabilized in a center and took a spin for a improved in a after stages.

Hamels gave adult a home run to a game’s second batter, Jose Altuve, though Texas surged into a lead in a sixth on Mitch Moreland’s two-run homer off Kazmir, who had yielded usually 4 home runs to lefty batters all season.

After a Astros tied a diversion 3-3 in a seventh on Colby Rasmus’ RBI single, a outcome was left adult to a bullpens, and a Rangers’ valid sturdier with dual shutout innings. Astros setup male Will Harris entered with one out in a eighth and authorised a singular to Adrian Beltre before Fielder belted a expostulate that sailed past a swirling breeze and over a center-field fence.

That sent Houston to a fifth detriment in 7 games in this season-long 10-game trip, dropping a highway record to 29-43.

“Losing’s not fun, generally when you’re in a competition like we’re in,” Harris said. “But we’ve got a lot of unequivocally gifted guys with a lot of appetite who are prepared to play tomorrow. Hopefully we get a possibility to get in there and do it right a subsequent time.”

Fielder had been looking to get his representation right after batting usually .239 in his prior 46 games, obscure his deteriorate normal from .341 to .307. The former home run champion had cranked out usually 18 entrance in, that would simply be his lowest sum in a full season, and had been operative on his mental approach.

Ahead 3-1 in a count opposite Harris, Fielder suspicion he had drawn a travel on a representation that seemed to cruise outside, usually to have image referee Gerry Davis call strike two. Fielder unloaded on a subsequent pitch, gnawing a widen of 46 at-bats but a homer.

When told he didn’t seem gratified with a strike dual call, Fielder burst a large smile.

“I’m unequivocally gratified with it now,” he pronounced to laughter. “Great call. It was on a corner.”

While a Astros are still sticking to initial place — they’ve hold during slightest a share of a lead for 139 of a season’s 162 days — their cracks are starting to show. They are 4-8 this month and mislaid third baseman Jed Lowrie — hero of Sunday’s epic quip opposite a Angels — to a painful shin in a fifth inning. Lowrie was attack cleanup in place of Carlos Gomez, who returned to Houston to have his bruise intercostal area examined.

Kazmir pronounced a bar needs to concentration on what it has in front of it, not what might be forward or behind.

“You can’t consider about, ‘Oh, we’re this most in front or this most behind,’ “ he said. “We usually have to take caring of business.”

Follow Jorge L. Ortiz on Twitter @jorgelortiz.

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