NEW YORK (AP) — Winning close ballgames has been a challenge for the Texas Rangers all season, but that’s two in a row they’ve taken at Citi Field.
Mitch Garver homered to snap a scoreless tie in the seventh inning and Texas, finally emerging from an untimely slump, beat the New York Mets 2-1 on Tuesday night.
“Really encouraging. We’ve lost a lot of these games,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “The guys played crisp baseball, and to find a way to win these games is going to be critical for us down the stretch here. So this has been good for them I think, these two games.”
Ezequiel Duran had an RBI single and Andrew Heaney rebounded from a rough stretch with seven strikeouts in 5 1/3 shutout innings for the Rangers, who began the day a game behind AL West-leading Seattle. They’ve won three of four following a season-worst eight-game slide that helped drop them out of first place for the first time since early April.
Texas took a series from the Mets for the first time and improved to 11-18 in one-run games.
“This one was good for us. We had to win without the three-run homer, without the crooked number really,” Garver said.
Chris Stratton (2-1) entered with two on in the sixth and retired cleanup hitter Pete Alonso on a foul popup before striking out rookie slugger Francisco Álvarez. It was Stratton’s first win for Texas since being acquired from St. Louis on July 30 in the trade that also netted starter Jordan Montgomery.
Brock Burke fanned two in a one-hit seventh and Will Smith worked a perfect eighth, combining with first baseman Nathaniel Lowe for a difficult glove-to-glove flip on Jeff McNeil’s drag bunt.
“I got extremely lucky,” Smith said with a smile. “That might have been my first glove flip.”
Aroldis Chapman allowed a two-out homer to rookie Mark Vientos in the ninth before finishing for his fourth save this season and second with Texas since being obtained from Kansas City in late June.
“Our whole bullpen did a great job,” Garver said.
On an 0-2 count, Vientos sent a 100 mph fastball to right-center for New York’s only extra-base hit, preventing the Mets from getting shut out for the 15th time this year.
The last-place Mets (60-73) wasted six scoreless innings from José Quintana and lost for the sixth time in seven games, equaling their season low at 13 games under .500.
“He deserved better. He was really sharp,” manager Buck Showalter said. “The top part of the order’s trying sometimes to do too much because we’ve been struggling.”
Leading off the seventh, Garver drove the second pitch from reliever Drew Smith (4-5) to center field for his 13th home run of the season.
“It felt good. I was ready to hit. Felt confident with my approach and got something I could handle,” said Garver, who has homered in five of his past 10 games. “I feel like I’m reaching back to my potential of the player that I believe I can be, the player I was a few years ago. It’s still in there. It’s not gone. It’s just a matter of getting back out there and making it happen.”
Duran added an RBI single off Phil Bickford in the ninth to make it 2-0.
“I’d love to be more consistent. It is frustrating, because I know how good I can be,” Heaney said. “We’ve got to win every game. That’s how we view it.”