ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Shin-Soo Choo talked about the veterans on the Texas Rangers, and their collective experience in big games.
“That’s what showed the last four games,” he said.
Mitch Moreland hit a three-run homer and Colby Lewis, another holdover from the Rangers’ two World Series teams, pitched six innings for his 16th victory as the Rangers beat Houston 8-2 on Thursday night to complete a four-game sweep that put them in the AL West lead.
The Rangers (79-67) entered the series trailing Houston by 1 1/2 games, but now lead by 2 1/2 with 16 remaining.
“I believe that our ballclub was as focused, as determined, as locked in as we could be for a four-game set, and especially where we were,” said manager Jeff Banister, who was then asked what he likes best about how his team is playing. “The energy, the passion, the grit. These guys, they’re here to play.”
Houston (77-70) had been alone atop the AL West for 49 consecutive days until losing Tuesday night. The Astros finished a 2-8 trip but stayed 1 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota for the second wild card after the Twins lost 11-8 to the Angels. Los Angeles is 2 1/2 games back, and plays in Houston next week.
“It’s difficult to absorb these losses when we’ve put so much time and energy in,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “Obviously, we feel pretty bad about the way these four games went. It’s nothing that a good win can’t overcome.”
The Astros play Oakland on Friday, the first of nine games on their final homestand of the regular season. They have the AL’s best home record at 48-24.
Moreland’s 21st homer was an opposite-field drive that just cleared the 14-foot wall in left in the third. Choo had a one-out single and Prince Fielder walked before Moreland made it 3-0 off rookie right-hander Lance McCullers (5-6).
Choo matched his career high with four hits, scored twice and drove in two runs.
Lewis (16-8), Moreland and shortstop Elvis Andrus were part of the World Series teams in 2010 and 2011. Third baseman Adrian Beltre and catcher-turned-left fielder Mike Napoli, reacquired last month, played for the 2011 AL championship team.
Fielder and Choo arrived last season, when the Rangers finished last with 95 losses. Now they’re in a pennant chase.
Lewis allowed two runs and seven hits. The right-hander, already with a career high for victories, struck out three.
Jed Lowrie had a two-out single in the Houston fourth before an RBI double by Evan Gattis, a ball misplayed by Napoli, who was playing left for only the fourth time in his professional career. Lewis hit a batter with a pitch before Luis Valbuena’s RBI single closed the Astros to 3-2.
Houston had two runners on in the fifth when Colby Rasmus grounded into an inning-ending double play. Second baseman Rougned Odor went to his left to field the ball, and was falling away when he threw a strike to Andrus for the relay to first.
In the seventh, Beltre fielded Jose Altuve’s chopper, stepped on third and threw across the diamond for another big double play. George Springer then struck out to end that inning, stranding a runner at second.
“It was definitely a complete series for us,” Moreland said. “Each game seemed like a complete win. We threw the ball well, we played good defense and created a lot of opportunities on the offense side, and we were able to capitalize.”
MOMENT FOR MILO
There was a moment of silence before the game to honor Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton, who died Thursday at age 88. Hamilton spent 60 seasons broadcasting major league games, and had been with six other teams before going to Houston in 1985. He retired after the 2012 season and had since served as a guest radio commentator for select Astros home games.
Astros: C Jason Castro was back in the lineup after being activated from the disabled list. He missed 16 games with a right quadriceps strain. … Lowrie played for the first time since getting hit by a pitch on the left shin Monday night.
Rangers: OF Josh Hamilton (left knee) hopes to take batting practice on the field Friday, a week after arthroscopic surgery to clean meniscus in his knee. He hopes to maybe pinch-hit by the end of the weekend.
Astros: Mike Fiers (7-10) is set to start the homestand opener against Oakland.
Rangers: Yovani Gallardo (12-10), who is 9-4 his last 21 starts, takes the mound in the opener of a three-game series against Seattle.