Fourth-place Texas (38-51) leads cellar-dwelling Houston (37-54) by only two games.
The Rangers lost for the 16th time in 19 games while the Astros snapped a seven-game losing streak.
Texas was forced to play from a sizable early deficit for the second time in as many days when Houston scored six runs in the second inning. The Mets jumped to a 5-0 first-inning lead in Sunday’s 8-4 win over Texas.
A few observations. ...
Rough start: Miles Mikolas’ fate in his second Rangers start was settled in the second inning when six consecutive Astros tagged hits and all six scored. The most damaging blow was a bases-clearing triple by No. 9 hitter Marwin Gonzalez.
There was no sign that such an offensive outburst was coming. Mikolas breezed through the first inning, recording three easy outs.
The Astros finished off Mikolas in the fourth on a three-run home run by Jon Singleton, a blast into the right-field stands that landed beyond the Rangers' bullpen and was estimated at 425 feet.
Mikolas’ pitching line included a troubling 12 hits and nine earned runs in 3⅓ innings. Oh, and four visits to the mound, three by pitching coach Mike Maddux and one for removal by manager Ron Washington.
In his first Rangers start at Baltimore, the 25-year-old pitched well. He left with a 4-1 lead after 5⅓ innings and ultimately was charged with three runs on only three hits.
Throwing strike one and two wasn’t a problem for Mikolas. Finishing off Astros hitters proved more difficult. Of his 88 pitches, 63 were for strikes.
On a tear: Adrian Beltre extended his hitting streak to 11 games, his longest of the season, with an RBI double to right-center in the third inning. Two innings later, Beltre connected on a 408-foot home run over the center-field wall, his 12th of the year. Beltre came into the game batting .516 in his past 17 home games. The homer brought the Rangers within three at 9-6, but they could get no closer.
Double trouble: Elvis Andrus grounded into his 16th double play of the season in the third inning. In five previous Rangers seasons, Andrus has never hit into more than 19. The shortstop made amends in his next chance, doubling home three runs in the fourth inning with a drive into the left-field corner.
Getting started: Jake Smolinski, in his first major league at-bat, struck out as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning. Smolinski was promoted from Triple-A Round Rock on Monday when Michael Choice was sent down. Smolinski remained in the game in left field. Astros relievers racked up seven consecutive strikeouts in innings 6-8.
Defensive gems: Rougned Odor’s over-the-shoulder stab of Jose Altuve’s soft fly to center in the second inning robbed the American League’s leading hitter of a hit and an RBI. Andrus leaped high to spear Chris Carter’s line drive for the final out of the fourth. Alex Rios covered a lot of ground to chase down a shallow fly ball off the bat of Matt Dominguez for the final out of the sixth. Left fielder Daniel Robertson robbed the unlucky Carter again with a diving catch near the line in the seventh.
Up next: The Rangers and Astros meet in the middle game of the series at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday with right-hander Phil Irwin (4-1, 2.47 ERA at Triple A Round Rock) making his Rangers debut. He will be opposed by Houston right-hander Brad Peacock (2-5, 4.38 ERA) on ESPN 103.3 FM and Fox Sports Southwest