ARLINGTON -- The pennant race has come to the Ballpark in Arlington and this was classic September baseball, the kind that brings real meaning to a 162-game grinding schedule.
It doesn't matter that the opponent has lost over 100 games, the Rangers are in a position where they can't afford to lose one more game. It doesn't matter that Chris Corporan is a .236 hitter when he's batting with two on and two out in a one-run game in the top of the eighth inning.
It's still a huge out when reliever Jason Frasor, taking over for Tanner Scheppers, gets him to hit a little popup in center field and Leonys Martin runs it down for the biggest out in the Rangers' 3-2 victory over the Astros on Tuesday night.
Adrian Beltre's sixth-inning home run put the Rangers ahead, but it was 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief of Yu Darvish that made the one-run lead stand up. Neal Cotts, the first man out of the bullpen in the sixth, got the win and after Scheppers and Frasor did their work, Joe Nathan shut it down in the ninth.
"Huge win," Nathan said after earning his 41st save. "We did what we need to do to take care of business in this clubhouse and in this ballpark. We just need to do what we can to keep pace and keep the pressure on them. We did it today and we need to come back tomorrow and do it again."
The victory allowed the Rangers to remain two games behind the Rays and one game behind the Indians in the AL Wild Card race. But the Rangers just missed getting the help they needed. The White Sox led the Indians, 4-3, with two outs in the ninth in Cleveland, before Jason Giambi hit a two-run, walk-off home run.
"You kind of hate it," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "You could've been easily tied in the race today, but that's baseball."
Beltre had the big home run for the Rangers off of Astros starter Brad Peacock. It was his first home run since Aug. 28.
"Every game we play now is going to be so important," Beltre said. "We have no place for mistakes. We have to try and win every game. Now we're kind of hoping that we win and they lose so we can sneak in. There's no tomorrow for us. Today was huge."
The Rangers needed the bullpen because Darvish went just 5 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on four hits. He also walked four and struck out nine, pushing him up to 101 pitches before manager Ron Washington pulled him with one out in the sixth and the score 2-2.
"He had thrown 100 pitches and his command wasn't as sharp as usual," Washington said. "I wasn't going to take a chance and let that game get away. The way the game was going, it was going to be a real nail-biter and I felt like I had to stop it right there."
Cotts got the final two outs in the sixth. He gave up an infield single to Brandon Barnes to start the seventh and moved him to second on a wild pitch. But he struck out Jonathan Villar and then Scheppers took over, getting Jose Altuve on a fly to right and striking out Marc Krauss to end the inning.
Scheppers also got the first two outs in the eighth inning before walking Trevor Crowe and giving up a single to Brandon Laird. Crowe went to third on the play and that's when Washington brought in Frasor to face Corporan, a left-handed hitter. Scheppers had thrown 32 pitches and left-handed hitters were hitting .159 off Frasor this season even though he is right-handed.
"Scheppers, in my opinion, was out of gas, so I brought in Frasor," Washington said. "He has no issues with left-handers."
Washington also said he did not consider bringing Nathan into the eighth for a four-out save.
"It was Frasor all the way," Washington said.
Frasor got ahead 0-2 with a couple of fastballs, then threw one more that Corporan popped into shallow center. Martin ran it down for the third out.
"I definitely have to give Frasor a hug right there for the way he came in and helped me out," Scheppers said.
"When I first saw it go up I thought it was going to fall in," Frasor said. "I couldn't tell how shallow Leonys was playing. He must have gotten a good jump. He came in and got it."
Nathan set down the side in order in the ninth and the Rangers live to fight another day.
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.