Slugger Joey Gallo has played a key role late in all three wins by the Texas Rangers this season, and with more than the long ball.
Gallo grounded a hard single through the right side of the infield, a tiebreaking two-run hit in the seventh inning that went between two diving infielders as the Rangers beat the Houston Astros 6-4 on Tuesday night.
"He's putting himself in very good situations and trusting his swing, controlling the moment," new manager Chris Woodward said. "A lot of guys are, pretty much everybody in big spots. I think that's why we're getting it done late in games because everybody's kind of committed to this idea ... and having a game plan for those big moments."
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The Rangers (3-2) are already over .500 for the second time this season after not having a winning record at any point last year.
In their first win Saturday night against the Chicago Cubs, Gallo hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the eighth inning. He finished that opening series with a ninth-inning double, then scored the game-ending run on a wild pitch.
"He's been really good," Rougned Odor said.
Asdrubal Cabrera, the new Texas third baseman after Adrian Beltre retired, homered for the third time. Cabrera's two-run shot in the second tied the game at 2 against Justin Verlander, the Astros opening-day starter who didn't make it out of the fifth inning in his second game.
"They did a good job of spoiling some good pitches, not swinging at some good ones, and kinda boxing me into an area where they knew there was a high probability to get a fastball. And they took advantage of it," Verlander said. "Couldn't find the right rhythm all day today."
Verlander was gone after back-to-back RBI singles by Andrus and Nomar Mazara put Texas up 4-3 with no outs in the fifth. The right-hander allowed six hits and three walks -- matching the total three batters walked by Astros pitchers over 42 innings in first five games.
"We had a plan against him. We are not going to fear anybody," Woodward said. "We made him work for everything. He knew right away we were coming after him."
Shawn Kelly (2-0) threw 1 1/3 innings in his third appearance for the Rangers. Jose Leclerc worked a perfect ninth for his second save.
Odor started the decisive seventh with a bunt single that was beyond the reach of lefty Framber Valdez (0-1) coming off the mound. Elvis Andrus had a double before Gallo pulled a hard one-out grounder that split between second baseman Jose Altuve and first baseman Yuli Gurriel.
SHELBY'S FIRST START
Texas native Shelby Miller allowed 10 baserunners (five hits and five walks) and two runs over 3 2/3 innings in his debut for the Rangers. The right-hander was limited to only nine games the past two seasons with Arizona because of Tommy John surgery in May 2017.
"It felt good. To finally get the first one out of the way, it was fun," Miller said. "It was definitely a grind out there competing against a great lineup."
Houston was 1 of 11 with runners in scoring position. "You lose the game, you circle that stuff all of the time," manager AJ Hinch said. "That certainly was the difference." ... The Rangers set a franchise record with 38 consecutive innings to start the season without an error, until shortstop Andrus had a throwing error in the third inning. That is the only error in their first five games, by them or their opponents.
Astros: RHP Lance McCullers Jr. started a light throwing program, five months after Tommy John surgery. He made 25-30 throws on flat ground from about 45 feet while playing catch with Hinch. McCullers, who won't pitch this season, said he felt good.
Astros: Gerrit Cole (0-1), who struck out 10 batters in six innings while losing at Tampa Bay in his first start of the season, is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in five career starts against Texas.
Rangers: Mike Minor (0-1) becomes the first Texas pitcher to make a second start, looking to bounce back after allowing six runs over 4 2/3 innings against the Chicago Cubs in his first-ever start on opening day.