ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Joey Gallo’s first sacrifice fly in more than 1,300 plate appearances for his career helped Shelby Miller get his first big league win in two years.
The problem for the Texas Rangers was needing their closer after leading by nine runs, then having to replace Jose Leclerc to finish off the Houston Astros.
Gallo’s first sac fly in plate appearance No. 1,337 helped him match his career best of five RBIs and Shawn Kelley came on for the faltering Leclerc to get the final out in an 11-10 victory over the Astros on Sunday.
“One thing I told Jose after the game is the ball is going right back in your hand tomorrow in that situation,” said first-year manager Chris Woodward, who had to replace Leclerc in the middle of the ninth of a win at Arizona 11 days earlier. “He’s going through a tough situation.”
Hunter Pence homered and drove in three runs in already the second series victory, both at home, for the rebuilding Rangers against the two-time defending AL West champions. Texas also won two of three in the first week of the season.
“We’re not going to wait until later in the season to get tight as a team,” said Elvis Andrus, the longest-tenured Texas player. “It’s always important to get off on the right foot. It’s something as a team we’ve been doing so far, especially against this team.”
The Astros hit five solo home runs after falling behind 10-1, including a pair from Carlos Correa and Josh Reddick in the eighth inning to get within three.
George Springer led off the ninth with the fifth Houston homer, this one off Leclerc, who was pulled after forcing in another run with four walks, capped by Jose Altuve as a pinch-hitter on what was supposed to be a day off for the star second baseman.
Kelley helped the Rangers avoid a complete collapse by striking out former Texas catcher Robinson Chirinos for his first save since 2017 with Washington.
“At 10-1, it didn’t look good, we didn’t feel good, we didn’t play good,” Houston manager AJ Hinch said. “Then from that time forward, we put together some really good at-bats. At the end of the day it’s a loss, but I expect this out of these guys.”
Miller (1-1) allowed homers on consecutive pitches to Alex Bregman and Michael Brantley in Houston’s five-run sixth inning. The right-hander gave up five hits and four runs — three earned — in 5 1/3 innings.
The last win for Miller was April 18, 2017, with Arizona against San Diego, not long before Tommy John surgery that sidelined him until the middle of last season. The Texas native was making his fourth start after signing a one-year contract with the Rangers in the offseason.
Pence and Logan Forsythe homered on consecutive pitches in the third off Collin McHugh. The Houston right-hander (3-2) gave up a career-high 10 runs — nine earned — in 3 1/3 innings after allowing five runs total in his first four starts.
GALLO’S BUSY DAY
Gallo, the 25-year-old in his third full season after spending parts of two years in the big leagues, finally got a sac fly on one of his typical towering fly balls. Danny Santana scored easily after center fielder Tony Kemp made the catch in the fourth.
“Just hearing about it nonstop,” said Gallo, who triggered a celebration from teammates in the dugout. “It was good to get that out of the way. Obviously they knew about it as well. You saw the reaction. And I got the ball, too. So that was pretty cool.”
A lefty slugger with more homers (96) than singles (88) in his career, Gallo pulled the singles count a little closer with a sky-high popup that shortstop Carlos Correa lost in the sun on a blustery Texas day.
Playing on the right side in a shift, Correa stopped in shallow right center and froze, even flinching at one point before the ball landed on the other side of second base, not far from his normal spot. Bregman, the third baseman, scrambled over as Shin-Soo Choo trotted home from third.
“He hits the ball high, and when he misses them they go really high, and the wind blowing,” Bregman said. “Just one of those pop flies that you’ve got to catch.”
Gallo opened the scoring with a two-run triple in the first and had an RBI groundout in the third.
Astros: RHP Brad Peacock (2-0, 3.94 ERA) is set for the opener of a three-game home series against Minnesota on Monday night. Peacock made two relief appearances while the Astros used a four-game rotation because of off days. The second of his two previous starts was April 7.
Rangers: LHP Mike Minor (2-1, 2.60) will pitch the opener of a three-game series in Oakland on Monday night. Minor is 2-0 with a 0.78 ERA in his past three starts.
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