ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 25: Elvis Andrus #1 of the Texas Rangers hits a single in the fourth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on July 25, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)
Elvis Andrus had never stepped up to bat with a fifth infielder staring in at him. He still knew exactly what he wanted to do when it happened to him for the first time Wednesday night.
With the bases loaded and one out -- and with Astros left fielder Chris Carter moved in to play first base -- Andrus sent a ball soaring into left-center field for sacrifice fly that scored pinch runner Adam Rosales and lifted the Texas Rangers over the Houston Astros 5-4.
"It made it easier. You don't really have to hit it anywhere, you just have to make sure you hit a fly ball," he said. "I had to stay focused and stay sure of my swing. He threw me one high enough and I was happy to be able to bring the run in and win the game."
It was the Rangers' major league-leading 40th comeback win of the season and the fourth game-ending hit of Andrus' career.
The AL West-leading Rangers (74-53) moved a season-high 21 games over .500 and hold a 2 1/2-game lead over the Oakland Athletics in the division.
"We feel really cool in that situation and that's the kind of games that are going to teach you a lot," Andrus said. "That's the kind of games you're probably going to play in the postseason."
During a wild eighth inning, Rangers reliever Tanner Scheppers gave up three hits, one walk, hit two batters and threw two wild pitches to surrender the lead. But closer Joe Nathan (4-2) shut down the Astros in the ninth to get the win.
The Texas pitching staff has allowed five runs or less in 20 consecutive games. But it looked dicey at times as both relief pitchers Joakim Soria in the seventh and Jason Frasor in the eighth came on with the bases loaded.
Only one of their combined six inherited runners scored.
"It's very comforting," Rangers manager Ron Washington said about Soria and Frasor. "You can't say enough about experience, and that's exactly what they have."
Chia-Jen Lo (0-1) took the loss for Houston, which was swept in the series and has lost eight straight to the Rangers.
Scheppers allowed a hit to open the eighth and quickly erased it by getting L.J. Hoes to ground into a double play. Then the bottom fell out for the Texas right-hander.
Jose Altuve singled, advanced to third on the two wild pitches and scored on Carter's bloop single to pull the Astros to 4-3. Scheppers then hit Matt Dominguez on the left shoulder to load the bases before throwing a pitch that glanced off Max Stassi's shoulder and into his face, knocking his helmet to the ground.
Jason Castro scored to tie the game 4-4 and give Stassi -- who was clearly bleeding as he was led off the field -- the first RBI of his career. He was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation.
"We will get a full report once they run all the tests," Astros Manager Bo Porter said after the game. "We don't have an update right now but it was definitely a scary situation.
"That is a very painful way to get your first RBI."
Craig Gentry homered and scored three times for Texas, one on a perfect squeeze bunt by Andrus in the seventh that gave Texas a 4-2 lead.
Castro homered and scored three runs for the Astros.
Texas starter Derek Holland pitched six-plus innings, leaving in the seventh after giving up a single to Castro and consecutive walks to load the bases with no outs. Soria came on in relief and got Stassi to ground into a double play, scoring Castro to trim the Astros' deficit to 3-2.
Holland gave up four hits and two earned runs while striking out five and walking three.
Astros starter Erik Bedard pitched 4 1-3 innings, giving up two earned runs on five hits with four walks.
NOTES: Rangers rookie RHP Nick Tepesch, on the DL since July 6 with right elbow inflammation, said he felt good after a bullpen session. He expects to throw live BP on the team's road trip that starts Friday. ... LHP Travis Blackley will apparently stay in the Texas rotation. "As of right now, he's going to get his next start," manager Ron Washington said. Blackley threw 66 pitches over four innings Tuesday night in place of injured Alexi Ogando. The next turn for that spot is Monday night at Seattle. ... In the second, Bedard took an Adrian Beltre come-backer off the inside of his right ankle, but he stayed in the game after being evaluated by team trainers. In the seventh, Holland took a Jason Castro line drive off his left forearm, but he also remained on the hill after being examined. ... Alex Rios stole second in the sixth inning, giving him 30 stolen bases -- his third season reaching that plateau.