ARLINGTON - They were down early -- hitless through three innings even -- and didn't panic. They coughed up a ninth-inning lead and it didn't faze them. The Astros finally figured out a way to beat the Rangers, and it began with grit and determination.
The Astros turned disappointment into triumph in a matter of a few minutes Saturday night, shaking off a ninth-inning blown save to win the game, 6-5, in the 10th inning when Jose Altuve drove home pinch-runner Marwin Gonzalez from third base on a sacrifice fly at Globe Life Park.
The win snapped the Astros' 12-game losing streak against the Rangers and put them in position to win a series from their in-state division rivals for the first time since June 24-26, 2008 by taking Sunday's series finale.
"It's a big win just from the fact they came back and tied it up," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "For us to come back and respond the way we responded to take the lead and go out and get those last three outs, I thought was huge."
In addition to clutch hits by Jason Castro, who had a one-out triple in the 10th, and clutch performances by starting pitcher Jarred Cosart and reliever Anthony Bass, the Astros got a superb defensive play in the 10th from shortstop Jonathan Villar, whose diving stop and throw to retire Alex Rios was a game-changer.
"He saved me right there," said Bass, who retired the final three batters he faced to strand the tying run at third base to record his second save.
Castro's triple hit the wall down the right-field line and rolled along the base of the wall toward center field while Alex Rios frantically chased it. Gonzalez ran for Castro at third.
"It's a random, bizarre play," Rios said. "If it's in the ground you can predict it and position yourself to make the play, but when the ball is hit that hard, it's almost unpredictable where the ball is going to go. I was trying to see the ball coming towards the grass instead of taking the route [along] the fence."
The Astros scored five times in the fourth inning, capped by a three-run homer by Robbie Grossman, to take a 5-2 lead they couldn't hold. The Rangers chipped away with a run in the fourth and another in the eighth and trailed, 5-4, entering the ninth.
Left-hander Kevin Chapman allowed the Rangers to tie the game when Michael Choice led off the inning with a solo homer to right -- the first homer of his career. Chapman came back to strike out Shin-Soo Choo to end the ninth and strand a runner at second and get the win.
"We just felt like that was a good pocket for him," Porter said of Chapman. "Even though we knew they had some pinch-hitters, [Leonys] Martin's going to hit and Choo is going to hit, and we felt like we could go through that pocket and get three outs. Choice put a good swing on the fastball out over the plate."
Cosart pitched a season-high seven innings and allowed six hits and three runs and was in line for the win before the Rangers' comeback. He struck out a career-high eight batters, including Choo four times.
"For me, you've got to keep this team off balance," Cosart said. "You can't just throw a get-me-over curveball. Early in the game they were popping out of my hand a little bit and staying in the zone and they saw it. They put some good swings on it, and it's a credit to them. I had to bear down after that and I was able to."
With the curveball clicking, Cosart retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced.
"I was able to gather myself, and after the last outing Bo told me, 'You know, it's OK to give up runs. Every once in a while it's going to happen,'" he said. "It's part of pitching, especially in the big leagues. You have to limit the damage. After that, the curveball came along and I was commanding the fastball well and was able to keep them off the fastball with the curveball and I got some big outs."
The Astros, who didn't get a baserunner in Friday's series opener until the sixth inning, didn't have a hit through three innings, which prompted Porter to corral his team in the tunnel between the clubhouse and dugout for a quick pep talk. The message was 'It's time to go.'
"We waited around long enough and it's time to go and get some runs," Grossman said.
Rangers starter Tanner Scheppers walked Castro with one out, and Altuve and Chris Carter followed with singles to load the bases. Carlos Corporan hit a sac fly, and Matt Dominguez tied the game with an RBI single. Grossman, who entered the game in a 1-for-27 funk, smacked a hanging slider over the wall in right for a three-run homer and a 5-2 lead.
"It means a lot just to help the team win again," he said. "Whatever I can do to help win the game, that's all that matters."
Even though Porter dropped Grossman lower in the batting order earlier in the week, he said he never lost confidence in his ability to hit Major League pitching.
"One of the things I said to him, I said, 'Look, it ain't going to last for long. Just keep it up and stay confidence. Nobody's going to lose confidence in you. Just go out there and continue to play,'" Porter said.