Battle for AL West continues as Astros, Rangers clash

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Unable to make up ground in the American League West on Saturday after following a Texas Rangers loss with one of their own, the Houston Astros were on the brink of losing ground on Sunday when they trailed the Oakland Athletics entering the top of the seventh inning

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But as they have for most of their injury-marred season, the Astros found the mettle to pull even in the seventh before Mauricio Dubon slugged a home run in the ninth that lifted Houston to a 3-2 victory and a series win

The Astros will now try to make sure that momentum carries over to Monday when they open a pivotal three-game series against the visiting Rangers

Houston needs to secure a sweep to catch Texas in the AL West, as the Rangers currently hold a three-game lead over their in-state rival

Despite being without slugger Yordan Alvarez and star second baseman Jose Altuve due to oblique injuries, the Astros have been doing all they can to keep Texas in striking distance. Alvarez hasn’t played since June 8, while Altuve last saw action on July 3

“We’ve got dogs in here,” Dubon said. “We’ve been doing it without Altuve and Alvarez, and I think when they come back the team is going to be back again. We’re in a pretty good position right now.

“We’ve got Texas coming up and everybody knows what’s going on. Just going back home on a high note, I think, is going to be big momentum for us.”

Right-hander Brandon Bielak (5-5, 3.46 ERA) will start the series opener for the Astros on Monday. He twirled 5 2/3 scoreless innings in a 4-1 win over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday, allowing one hit and three walks while recording four strikeouts

Bielak is 2-1 with a 1.02 ERA in three starts since returning from Triple-A Sugar Land on July 3.

In seven career relief appearances against the Rangers, Bielak is 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA. He last faced Texas on June 15, 2022, logging one scoreless inning

Right-hander Jon Gray (6-5, 3.31) will get the nod for the Rangers on Monday. He is winless over his last seven starts, pitching to an 0-4 record with a 4.66 ERA during that span. Gray last recorded a victory on June 2 against the Seattle Mariners when he worked seven scoreless innings while allowing two hits and one walk

Gray is 1-3 with a 3.94 ERA in six career starts against the Astros. He was Texas’ pitcher of record in a 5-3 loss on June 30 after allowing five runs on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts

While the Rangers merely salvaged the finale of their three-game home series against the Los Angeles Dodgers with an 8-4 win on Sunday, they did so by rallying after the Dodgers scored four runs in the first inning on the heels of scoring 27 over the first two games of the series

“The thing I liked about it, we lost the first two games and we get down four runs (Sunday),” Texas manager Bruce Bochy said. “We answered back right away.”

–Field Level Media

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