ARLINGTON — Less than 24 hours after getting swept at home by the Yankees, the Astros faced their biggest road series of the season on Monday against their in-state rivals, the Rangers from Texas. For the defending World Series champions, even a 3-0 deficit in the fifth inning wasn’t enough to sink them, as they hit five home runs and scored 13 runs — with 16 total hits — To overwhelm the Rangers at Globe Life Field in Arlington.
With a 13-6 win over Texas, the Sidereals tied the Mariners (who lost at Cincinnati) for first place in the AL West. Also, they have sent a strong message in this particular series.
“A game that felt the atmosphere of the playoffs from the first inning,” said Venezuela veteran Jose Altuve, who had 39,181 fans. “Coming up against Rangers, who have been top for most of the season, we know it won’t be easy. But we needed a game like this.
Houston’s success also had historical overtones. Honduran Mauricio Dubon and Altuve combined twice, part of a game that totaled nine home runs between the two teams — the most in the history of Globe Life Field, which opens its doors in 2020. In addition to the four between Dubón and Altuve, Yainer Díaz had one for the Astros, while Corey Seager had two for the Rangers, as did Mitch Garver and Josh Smith.
“The guys did a good job today,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “They played well today.”
The three-game Monday-Wednesday series has been touted for weeks as one of the best in the American League this time of year. The stakes are high as the Astros, Mariners and Rangers battle for the top of the West. With a 7-4 home series win over Texas on Monday, Houston won the “Silver Boot” and any tiebreaker with its in-state neighbors.
Because Houston’s Minute Maid Park is 257 miles from Globe Life Field, it was about a three-hour, 45-minute drive, and there was even a large group of Astros fans.
“We love seeing the Houston fans, we love being on the road,” Baker said. “We see them everywhere, but here it’s close and the support is palpable. It seemed 50/50 (Astros-Rangers).”
Altuve added: “I’ve always said that Houston’s fans, to me, are the best in the major leagues. They always support us wherever we are. They want to come and watch their team play. For us, it’s an honor to go out and play for them.”
In both the sixth and ninth innings, ninth hitter Dupont and leadoff hitter Altuve walked. It was only the second time in Astros history that the same pair accomplished the feat twice in the same game, accomplished in 2005 by two club greats, Craig Biggio and Lance Bergman.
“Honestly, I didn’t go looking for them,” said DuPont, whose four corner drives are 393 and 378 feet, respectively, matching the Aldu’s 429 and 420. “I went looking for a pitch to hit hard and it came out. Worked the count and got a good swing and the ball went. It felt really good.
“I’m not surprised at all; I know what I have, what I can do,” the versatile player continued after his first career game with two homers. “It’s just an opportunity. It’s the most important game of the year and I think it’s incredible to be able to do that.
Houston’s win on Monday is crucial to erasing the bad taste of the sweep against the Yankees and, apparently, the Rangers are now 1.0 games behind the Mariners and Astros. But there are still two games left in the series and almost a month left in the regular season. Nothing has been decided.
“More games are coming, one day at a time,” Dubon said of that. “I think that’s what we’re doing here. One day at a time and see what happens tomorrow”.