Rangers, Astros brace for high-stakes series

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Despite a stretch that has seen them win just four times in their past 16 games, the Texas Rangers enter Monday’s opener of their big three-game Lone Star Series with the Houston Astros in Arlington, Texas, with a little extra hop in their step.

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Give Adolis Garcia a lot of credit for that.

Garcia, who had struck out in all four of his previous at-bats and entered Sunday in the midst of a 15-for-92 (.163) stretch, hit a walk-off home run leading off the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Rangers a much-needed 6-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

Garcia’s 34th homer of the season snapped a three-game losing streak for Texas.

The Rangers (76-60) and Astros (77-61) will enter the series tied for second place in the American League West, one game behind the Seattle Mariners. Both teams hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays for an AL wild-card spot.

“A huge win, obviously,” Texas manager Bruce Bochy said of Sunday’s victory. “Those are games that haven’t gone our way. … We’ve been through a lot and we’ve had a lot of baseball, but this is one I thought that we really, really needed. A big win for us.”

It was the AL-leading 100th RBI of the season for Garcia. His 34 homers rank third behind Shohei Ohtani (44) of the Angels and Luis Robert Jr. (35) of the White Sox.

“You strike out four times, that’s a lot of pressure on you, especially when you’re up there with two strikes,” Bochy said. “I’m sure the pressure was mounting, and he’s not feeling good about his day at that point, but he got ahold of one. Good for him, good for us, and again, that’s one of the biggest home runs we’ve had all year.”

Garcia’s homer took the spotlight away from teammate Mitch Garver, who had his fourth career four-hit game, including two home runs and four RBIs.

“It has to,” Garver said when asked if the walk-off win meant more than winning 12-0. “We have a big series coming up here.”

Left-hander Andrew Heaney (9-6, 4.16 ERA), who went 2-0 with a 2.39 ERA in six August starts, will start the series opener for the Rangers and be opposed by rookie right-hander J.P. France (10-5, 3.49).

Heaney is 4-4 with a 3.20 ERA in 14 career starts against Houston. He is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in three starts against Houston this season, allowing just nine hits and three runs over 15 innings while striking out 15 in those contests.

France won his only career start against Texas on July 25, allowing one unearned run on five hits over seven innings while striking out three.

The Astros limp into the contest after getting swept in a three-game series by the New York Yankees for the first time since Sept. 27-29, 2013. The Yankees completed the sweep with a 6-1 win on Sunday night at Minute Maid Park.

“That was tough to take, especially with the number of Yankee fans in our stadium,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “You can’t fret over it now because we only have a few hours to get over this one and a tough series in Texas.”

—Field Level Media

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