ARLINGTON, Texas — Alex Rios stood in front of an empty bottle of champagne while he answered questions about the first cycle of his career.
He’s hoping there might be a few more bottles in the near future for the Texas Rangers.
Rios hit for the cycle, Derek Holland struck out nine in his second shutout of the season and the Rangers started their final push for a playoff spot with a 12-0 victory over the Houston Astros on Monday night.
The Rangers pulled within a game of idle Cleveland for the second AL wild-card berth with six games remaining. They are two games behind wild-card leader Tampa Bay, which beat Baltimore 5-4 on Monday.
If they want to celebrate a fourth straight season in the playoffs, the Rangers will have to keep it up in the final two games against the Astros and a four-game finishing series against the Los Angeles Angels — all at home.
“We have to focus on the things that we have to do to win a game at a time,” said Rios, who completed the cycle in his only four at-bats and drove in four runs. “It doesn’t do any good for us to look at what’s happening around us.”
Rios finished the cycle with a triple to right-centre field in the sixth inning, pulling into third standing up without a throw and later scoring to put Texas up 11-0. He doubled in the first inning, had an infield single in the third and hit his 18th homer for a 9-0 lead in the fourth.
He didn’t get a chance for a fifth hit. Engel Beltre replaced him in right field in the seventh as one of the mass substitutions in a game that was out of hand early. Both teams used 14 players.
“You wish that in your career that you could have done that,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “It worked out perfectly for him. He hit it in the perfect part of the field and with his speed he was able to do it.”
Holland (10-9) got his 10th win in his ninth try since his last victory on Aug. 4. The left-hander won at home for the first time since May 31.
Houston starter Jordan Lyles (7-9) gave up seven hits and seven runs with three walks in three innings.
Rios looked like he wanted to get the triple of the way in the first inning, going about 25 feet beyond the bag at second before pulling up on a two-run double. He had his fourth RBI on the triple, bringing home Elvis Andrus.
The first cycle of Rios’ career was the seventh in Rangers’ history. Adrian Beltre was the last to do it, last Aug. 24 against Seattle.
It was the third cycle in the majors this year — Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels on May 21 and the Astros’ Brandon Barnes on July 19, both against Seattle.
“Just a good night at the plate,” Rios said. “But the most important thing is that we won tonight.”
Three of the six singles allowed by Holland didn’t leave the infield. He’s a 10-game winner for the third straight season. His other shutout was a two-hitter in a 2-0 win over the New York Yankees on June 27.
Lyles was gone after a four-run third that ended on a three-run double by Leonys Martin, who was thrown out trying to go to third on a ball that went to the wall near the 407-foot sign in right-centre field.
“We always joke about how I don’t get much run support,” Holland said. “It was good to see those guys do everything they did.”
The Astros pushed their season strikeout total to 1,477 — more than 100 ahead of No. 2 Minnesota on that list. Houston locked up its third straight season of at least 106 losses and needs one more to match last year’s franchise record.
“We’ve had some rough games,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “They took it to us.”
NOTES: Rios’ homer snapped a six-game streak without a long ball for Texas at Rangers Ballpark. … Astros rookie C Max Stassi rejoined the team in the same ballpark where he was hit by a pitch in the jaw and missed a month with a concussion. Stassi hasn’t played since Aug. 21 at Rangers Ballpark, where a pitch from Texas reliever Tanner Scheppers glanced off his left shoulder and hit him in the jaw the day after his major league debut. … Beltre, Texas’ leader in average, homers and RBIs, went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts, although he did have a sacrifice fly.