HOUSTON — Houston-area native and Rice University product Glenn Otto grew up watching the Astros and the Lone Star Series for as long as he can remember. While he’s familiar with the in-state rivalry, he now gets to be an active participant in the competition for the Silver Boot Trophy.
Unfortunately on Thursday night, he was on the wrong end of the matchup. Otto turned in a quality start, tossing six innings and allowing two runs on seven hits and three walks, but the Rangers ultimately fell, 5-1, to the Astros in the first of a four-game set at Minute Maid Park.
Otto gave the Rangers the length they needed, posting career highs in pitches (96) and innings (six).
“I’m just happy I was able to get into the sixth inning,” Otto said. “I wanted to try to eat up as many innings and save the bullpen as much as possible, especially with the beginning of a four-game series here in Houston. It was a rough first inning and I was able to battle through in the second and third to get through the sixth. All in all, I did my job.”
In his first time pitching in his hometown as a professional, Otto admitted being a bit antsy in the first inning when he surrendered three hits, a hit by pitch and the first two Astros runs of the game. After that, the right-hander settled down, allowing just four more hits and no runs in his final five frames.
While he wasn’t at his sharpest, and struck out just two Houston hitters, Otto induced a lot of soft contact and 12 swings and misses that didn’t allow the Astros to spray balls all over the field. He attributed that to his ability to come inside with his slider while the batters were looking away.
“The slider is a good pitch for me and at times it’s upset them quite a bit,” Otto explained. “So my ability to get to that inside corner, and even expand off the inside corner, got broken bats, soft contact and swinging misses.”
“That was huge for [Otto] to give us a chance to win the game,” manager Chris Woodward added. “Ultimately, we had a chance to win that game many times. We just couldn’t do enough to do it.”
Starting pitching was just about the only thing that went right for the Rangers in the loss. The biggest issue was that the bats went quiet once again as Texas scored one in the first inning, but never after that.
Woodward emphasized that Otto giving them length was vital to keeping the Rangers in the game, especially coming off the extra-inning game on Wednesday. Even though he did, the short bullpen would ultimately be the largest factor in the loss.
The final nail in the coffin came in the eighth inning when reliever Josh Sborz issued three straight walks to load the bases. Martín Maldonado broke the game open shortly after with a bases-clearing double off Matt Moore to secure a victory.
“Honestly, it was one pitch away,” Woodward said.
As for the Lone Star Series, the Astros have absolutely dominated the Rangers for the better part of the last five years. Texas’ last win at Minute Maid Park was Sept. 16, 2020, and it has dropped 22 of the last 24 here dating back to 2019.
While this week’s sweep of the Angels was a singular step in the right direction in returning to contention, the measuring stick in the AL West begins and ends with Houston for the time being.
“They’ve been good ever since I’ve managed here,” Woodward said. “They’re a really talented team. It’s hard enough just to beat these guys anywhere but like, especially in this building. They play really well, and they feed off the energy. But we’ve got three more. I know this group is going to come at them tomorrow. That’s all we can ask.”