ARLINGTON (AP) – Martin Perez kept his pitches low in the zone and got plenty of help from the Texas defense.
Perez threw eight scoreless innings with the benefit of four double-play grounders, plus two runners thrown out trying to steal a base, and the Rangers got a series-clinching 1-0 victory over the Houston Astros on Sunday.
“That happens when you throw all your pitches down and you get a lot of groundballs,” Perez said. “If you can throw strikes with runners on base, you can get a win, you can get the outs. You have to make a pitch and trust your stuff.”
The lone run came on a sacrifice fly in the sixth by Donnie Murphy, who was in the game only because shortstop Elvis Andrus got ejected at the end of the third after taking a called third strike. Andrus tossed his bat away from the plate and then said something to home plate umpire Alan Porter.
“As soon as I saw (the ump) point at him, I automatically threw off the hoodie and got loose, so I didn’t really have much time to think about it,” said Murphy, who joined the Rangers at the end of spring training. “It’s always nice when you don’t start the game just to come in and contribute like that.”
Perez (2-0) struck out two while scattering five hits and three walks. Catcher Robinson Chirinos threw out would-be base stealers in the third and fifth innings.
Alexi Ogando worked a perfect ninth to convert his first save chance.
Murphy’s deep flyball to the left-center gap in the sixth sent home Josh Wilson against Brett Oberholtzer (0-3), who had a career-high seven strikeouts with no walks.
“Oberholtzer was outstanding. Our starters did a tremendous job this whole series. The starts put us in a position to win every game,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “We’ve got to get (the offense) going. If you don’t score, you’ve got zero chance of winning.”
The Astros, who have scored only four runs in Oberholtzer’s three starts, scored in only two of their 31 innings against Texas. They had a five-run fourth inning Saturday before the game-winning run in the 10th.
It was only the 10th 1-0 victory for the Rangers in their 1,601 regular-season home games since moving into their current ballpark 20 years ago. It was their second in three games against the Astros, the first time Texas has ever had multiple 1-0 wins in the same series — home or away.
Texas won the series opener 1-0 in 12 innings Friday night after Yu Darvish was perfect thru five innings. The Astros won 6-5 in 10 innings Saturday to snap their 12-game losing streak to their instate AL West rival.
Houston has scored only four runs in the three games started this season by Oberholtzer, who struck out a career-high seven in seven innings against Texas.
Texas has won its last 15 series against the Astros since dropping two of three at Houston in June 2008.
Andrus struck out in both of his at-bats, ending his season-opening 11-game hitting streak that was second-longest in team history. Al Oliver had hits in the Rangers’ first 13 games to start the 1979 season.
Prince Fielder finished 0 for 3, dropping his average to .149 through his first 12 games with the Rangers. The Astros used a drastic shift against him this weekend that took away several hits, including a sharp liner caught by second baseman Jose Altuve in shallow right to end the sixth Sunday. Altuve fielded a ground near that spot in the fourth.
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