ARLINGTON -- The Rangers entered Monday night's game with the Astros having been thrown out 54 times on the bases this year, the most in the Major Leagues.
That's not going to stop them or even slow them down on the basepaths, especially with Leonys Martin and Elvis Andrus at the top of the lineup. Those two helped execute two classic offensive baseball plays in a two-run first inning and then the Rangers blasted the game open with an 11-run third on their way to a 16-5 rout of the Astros at Rangers Ballpark.
The perfectly-executed hit-and-run and the double steal of home were the two igniters that started the Rangers on their way to their 12th victory in 14 games against the Astros this season. The win also left the Rangers 3-3 on this homestand.
"It was a good all-around game, especially offensively," Andrus said. "The baserunning was really good and when we do that, we usually score a lot of runs."
The Rangers finished with 14 hits and were 6-for-16 with runners in scoring position. A.J. Pierzynski was 4-for-5 with four RBIs and a seventh-inning home run. That was the Rangers' first home run since last Tuesday in the first game of this homestand. The Rangers were also just six outs away from scoring 15 runs for the second time in three nights without the benefit of a home run before Pierzynski went deep.
"That's amazing," Pierzynski said. "Home runs are nice, but sometimes they can kill momentum. If you keep getting singles and doubles, it puts pressure on the other team. We're getting Leonys and Elvis on base, the way they've been running and putting pressure on the other team. Anytime we can get guys on in scoring position, we like our chances. Guys are hopefully getting comfortable and getting on a roll."
Martin and Andrus were 5-for-8 with six runs scored at the top of the lineup. But every player in the starting lineup crossed the plate and eight of nine had at least one hit.
"We're doing a great job lately of using every last out," outfielder David Murphy said. "It didn't matter what kind of lead we had, we were still having quality at-bats. When you get good pitches to hit and have quality at-bats, you see the offensive production we had tonight."
Right-hander Matt Garza took advantage of the massive run support to earn his third victory with the Rangers. He allowed five runs on eight hits, one walk and eight strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings. The Rangers are now 5-1 in his six starts, even though he has allowed at least four runs in each of his last four outings. But he had a 15-1 lead through six innings on Monday before giving up four runs in the seventh.
"My last outing, I didn't have a great outing so this outing I wanted to keep attacking and stay in the strike zone," Garza said. "I probably kept the ball too much in the strike zone. I was really happy with my fastball command, it just got away from me a little bit in the seventh."
Martin started the Rangers' first inning against Astros starter Lucas Harrell by beating out a high chopper to second baseman Jose Altuve. He then broke for second on a 1-1 pitch to Andrus, who slapped a single through the right side. Martin made it easily to third and, with Ian Kinsler at the plate, Andrus stole second.
Kinsler brought home Martin with a sacrifice fly to center and Andrus moved to third on the play. Adrian Beltre was intentionally walked, putting runners the corners for Pierzynski and he worked the count full. Beltre was running on the pitch as Pierzynski struck out swinging. Catcher Carlos Corporan threw down to second, Beltre dodged a tag from shortstop Jonathan Villar and Andrus raced in with the steal of home. It's the third career steal of home for Andrus, the most in club history.
"Elvis really read the catcher well," manager Ron Washington said. "I didn't have the double-steal on, I had the run-and-hit on to stay out of the double play and Elvis read it well."
Martin, with the Rangers leading 2-1, also got things going in the third inning by beating out a leadoff bunt single. Andrus singled to center, Kinsler bunted the runners to second and third and Beltre was again walked intentionally. It's the first time since Oscar Gamble in 1979 that a Rangers starting player was intentionally walked in his first two plate appearances in a game.
Pierzynski followed with a two-run single, Alex Rios singled to reload the bases and Mitch Moreland doubled to center to give the Rangers a 6-1 lead. From there the inning disintegrated on the Astros as two walks, two errors and two singles led to six more runs.
"When you give teams extra outs, especially a lineup as deep as the Rangers, you're going to run into a lot of trouble," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "We gave them some extra outs, and they made us pay for it."
The 11-run outburst was the highest single-inning run total by a team in the Majors this season.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.