<
>

Rapid Reaction: Astros 8, Rangers 3

7/9/2014

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Another failed night of playing catchup left the Texas Rangers on the short end of a 8-3 defeat at the hands of the Houston Astros on Tuesday night at Globe Life Park.

Texas trailed throughout after Houston jumped to a 2-0 advantage in the top of the first.

It was deja vu for Texas. The Rangers trailed 5-0 after one inning of Sunday's loss to the New York Mets and 6-0 in the second inning of Houston's 12-7 victory on Monday.

That's 17 losses in the past 20 games for the Rangers. Texas (38-52), fourth in the AL West, leads fifth-place Houston (38-54) by one game.

It was a night when both managers emptied their bullpens. Houston's pen was a clear winner there as well -- five relievers to four.

A few observations:

Settling down: After an understandably nervous 33-pitch first inning, Rangers starting pitcher Phil Irwin salvaged an OK night from what promised to be a disastrous debut with the club. Irwin actually minimized the damage in a two-run first by inducing a double-play ball with the bases loaded. George Springer's massive 430-foot home run to center accounted for the only run charged to Irwin in his final three innings. He needed 50 pitches in his last three frames.

Even dozen: Adrian Beltre extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a fourth-inning triple. Beltre's drive to right-center hit at the top of the wall, missing a home run by only a couple of inches.

Going deep: Leonys Martin homered for the second time in three days and in each case he did his damage on a 3-1 pitch. Martin's majestic shot in the lower deck of the home-run porch traveled an estimated 384 feet and trimmed the Houston lead to 2-1. Before his home run Sunday against the Mets, Martin had gone more than a month since his last homer. The Rangers' center fielder drove in a second run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth and tripled in the eighth.

Slow play: The official scorer ruled "slow play" on Rangers catcher Chris Gimenez, allowing Houston's Robbie Grossman to reach after striking out on a pitch in the dirt in the first inning. Gimenez seemed concerned that Jose Altuve, the Astros' runner at second, might break for third. A throw to first that would complete the strikeout was delayed so long that Grossman beat it. With the slow play ruling, no error was charged and Grossman eventually scored an earned run.

A hit to savor: There was nothing cheap about Jake Smolinski's first major league hit. Smolinski smoked a double off the left-field wall to drive in a run in the seventh inning to cut the Houston lead to 5-3. The 25-year-old left fielder struck out in his first two trips. Smolinski followed it up with a single in the ninth.

Roman era begins: Rangers right-handed reliever Roman Mendez made his major league debut in the eighth inning in a tough spot, with two on, no outs and the Astros leading 7-3. Mendez retired all three batters he faced and followed it up with a scoreless ninth.

Welcome back: Save for one pitch to Chris Carter he'd like to have back, Neftali Feliz contributed two strong innings of relief in his return to Globe Life Park. There were a lot of good memories seeing Feliz trot in from the bullpen, even if this time it was the fifth inning instead of the ninth. Carter drove a Feliz offering 409 feet into the left-field stands to make it 4-2 and added a 403-foot shot over the center-field fence in the eighth for a 6-3 Astros lead.

Frustrating times: Elvis Andrus bent over and pounded his helmet into the dirt along the first-base line after flying out to center with two on and two out in a 5-3 game in the seventh.

Gift run: Two Rangers errors contributed to a tack-on Houston run that made it 5-2 in the seventh. After drawing a walk, Jose Altuve stole second and alertly continued to third on Gimenez's throwing error. Altuve trotted home on Springer's ground ball up the middle that Rougned Odor played into an error.

Up next: The Rangers and Astros close out the series at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday with Rangers ace Yu Darvish (8-4, 2.63 ERA) opposed by Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel (8-5, 3.06 ERA) at Globe Life Park on ESPN 103.3 FM and Fox Sports Southwest.