Rangers rout Astros once again in St. Pete
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The good news for the Houston Astros is that they are going home soon, and they have only one more game at Tropicana Field.
Displaced from their home by extensive flooding in Houston, the Astros took a second lopsided loss at the hands of the Texas Rangers, falling 8-1 on Wednesday in the second of three games in Florida while the Tampa Bay Rays are on the road.
Texas starter Andrew Cashner (8-9) was sharp, holding the Astros (79-53) to three hits and one run in eight innings. He struck out six without issuing a walk.
“Very impressive outing for Andrew,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “Really didn’t allow these guys to get their arms extended. Six strikeouts looking, but committed to throw inside to these guys, and enough off-speed mix to keep them off the (fastball).”
Texas has earned back-to-back wins to remain in a logjam of contenders in the American League wild-card chase.
The Rangers (66-66) tagged Houston’s Dallas Keuchel (11-3) for six runs in the fourth inning.
Keuchel yielded six runs on five hits and three walks in six innings. He struck out seven.
“He was really good early and just got burned in the one inning,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Keuchel. “A couple of walks, one semi-intentional (walk) pitching around (Adrian) Beltre, and then a couple of hits and a mistake to (Mike) Napoli and it made for a big inning. You put up a big inning, as well as Cashner was throwing, it was hard to overcome.”
Napoli’s three-run home run in the fourth inning was the Rangers’ 204th long ball this season, jumping them ahead of the Astros for the major league lead. Elvis Andrus, who had four hits on Tuesday, added three on Wednesday and is now 13-for-23 (.565) over the past five games.
Keuchel, who opened the season with a 9-0 record before missing 44 games with a neck injury, is now 2-3 since returning July 28. He had pitched well in his previous three starts, allowing just three earned runs in 20 2/3 innings for a 1.31 ERA.
The Astros came to St. Petersburg with the possibility of also hosting a three-game weekend series with the Mets, but the team announced before the Wednesday game that the games against New York would be played at Minute Maid Park.
After the series finale at Tropicana Field on Thursday, the Houston players will return home for the first time since Aug. 24, before much of the flooding had impacted Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The Astros and Mets will take Friday off, play a doubleheader Saturday afternoon and evening, then finish the series Sunday afternoon.
Tuesday’s neutral-site game, played with $10 general admission seats on the lower level with all proceeds going to Texas relief efforts, drew an announced crowd of 3,485 fans, and Wednesday’s was even bigger, with attendance announced as 6,123. Texas and Houston will play again Thursday to wrap up the three-game series, with the Astros returning home and the Rangers also going back to Texas for a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels.
“It’s been fantastic. I can’t thank the fans enough in this community that came out in support of this series,” Hinch said. “You can’t ask for much more. This ballpark, two teams from Texas, obviously there’s some of our fans and some of their fans, but mostly Rays fans. Really proud.”
The Rangers are now 5-0 at Tropicana Field this year, with a three-game sweep of the Rays in July plus these two wins against the Astros.
Keuchel retired the first 10 batters he faced, then abruptly hit a wall in the fourth inning.
Keuchel gave up a single to Andrus and a double to Nomar Mazara, then issued a walk to Beltre to load the bases with one out. Joey Gallo walked to tie the score at 1, and Carlos Gomez, mired in a 1-for-19 slump, hit a two-run single for a 3-1 lead.
“No at-bat bigger than Gallo’s at-bat with the bases-loaded walk,” Banister said. “Just a major league at-bat by a guy that continues to get better every time he goes out.”
Napoli, himself in an 0-for-18 slump, hit a three-run homer to left-center field -- his 28th home run of the season -- for a 6-1 lead.
Houston was able to string two hits together for an early lead. Yuri Gurriel doubled in the second, advanced on Brian McCann’s single and scored on Carlos Beltran’s sacrifice fly to deep left for a 1-0 lead.
Gurriel left the game two innings later due to right knee soreness. He struggled running the bases after his double, only taking third on McCann’s single.
The Rangers added two runs in the ninth inning when Andrus doubled to score Shin-Soo Choo, who had also doubled. Andrus scored on Gallo’s RBI single.
NOTES: Texas’ 12 runs on Tuesday night were the Rangers’ most in a road game since May 2015, when they had 15 in a game at the New York Yankees. ... The Rangers entered the game with a. 224 road batting average, worst in the majors, but they posted double-digit hits for the second straight night. ... With back-to-back wins, the Rangers are now 7-8 this year against the Astros in the “Lone Star Series,” which awards a Silver Boot to each year’s series winner. The teams also have a series at Arlington, Texas, from Sept. 25-27.