HOUSTON TAKES SERIES

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

It was another series and another series loss in the Bayou City as the Houston Astros took two of three games from the Texas Rangers this weekend. The struggling Ranger offense managed to score just three runs in the series – one in each game making the Rangers extremely fortunate to avoid a sweep.

The series started with a plain old pitchers’ duel. It looked like baseball in the ’60′s. Houston starter Justin Verlander looked like the Justin Verlander that won a Cy Young Award in Detroit. Cole Hamels was the Ranger starter, and he pitched like the Cole Hamels that was a World Series MVP.

Through six innings, Verlander had surrendered just two hits and walked no one. Over the same span, Hamels had walked three and hit two batters, but he did not give up a hit until the fifth inning, an Evan Gattis ground single through the hole between shortstop and third base. It was the only hit the Astros would get on the night.

Nomar Mazara greeted Verlander with a lead-off double to start the seventh inning. Verlander then walked the next two and was replaced by Chris Devinski, who promptly surrendered a sacrifice fly from Jurickson Profar’s bat. That was the only run that was scored on this night.

Ranger manager Jeff Banister said the original plan was for Hamels to pitch the seventh inning. However, the top half of the inning took so long that Banister decided to go to his bullpen. Jake Diekman put down Houston in the seventh and walked the first batter of the eighth inning. Jose LeClerc followed Diekman and got the three batters he faced in the eighth, striking out one.

Keone Kela came on to pitch the ninth for Texas. He walked one and went to a three ball count on another, but he put down the Astros without any scoreboard damage to earn his eighth save of the year. 1-0 was the final score. Hamels is 2-4 with the win. Hard luck Verlander is 4-2 with the loss, but he still leads the league in ERA at 1.21. He’s made three starts this season against the Rangers, pitching a total of 20 innings and allowing a mere two runs. Somehow, the Rangers have won two of those games.

The Rangers’ Doug Fister matched up against Charlie Morton in Saturday night’s tilt. Fister turned in a quality start going 6-1/3rd innings while allowing three earned runs on four hits and three walks.

It wasn’t good enough to stay with Morton though, who was the winning pitcher and moved his record to 5-0, 2.03. He completed seven innings, also giving up four hits. However, he walked no one and struck out 14 of the 21 batters he retired. Ronald Guzman touched him for a home run for the only Ranger score.

Tony Barnette relieved Fister and gave up three more runs to make the final score 6-1. Fister’s record fell to 1-4 with the loss.

On Sunday, the teams wore a lot of pink in support of breast cancer awareness. The different uniforms didn’t help the Rangers though. They lost again 6-1.

Matt Moore was the Ranger starter, and he was bad again. He gave up three runs in the third inning, and that ended his stay on the mound. He labored with 72 pitches for the three innings, walking three and giving up six hits. He faced 18 batters, so the Astros’ on base percentage was .500 against him. Banister was non-commital after the game as to whether Moore will remain in the rotation.

The Astros tagged Kevin Jepsen for three more runs in the seventh to extend their lead to 6-0. Newly acquired Carlos Perez hit his first Ranger home run in the eighth inning for the Rangers’ run of the day.

Moore is 1-5, 7.82 with the loss, while Houston’s Dallas Keuchel gave up just three hits in seven inning to win his third game of the year. He struck out a season high eight batters.

The news on the injury front wasn’t good Sunday. Adrian Beltre left the game with an apparent hamstring injury. He likely will be placed on the disabled list.

Texas is now a full 10 games out of first place in the American League West. They trail fourth place Oakland by four games in the standings, but by five games in the loss column.

The Rangers are off on Monday and then open a brief two game series in Seattle on Tuesday evening. Texas lost two of three games earlier in Arlington in their only matchup with Seattle so far this season. Mike Minor and Bartolo Colon are the announced starting pitchers for the Rangers.

NOTABLE:

* Rougned Odor was activated from the disabled list for the series. Renato Nunez was designated for assignment to make room on the active roster, and he was claimed on waivers by Baltimore. Odor started the first two games of the series and subbed for Beltre in Sunday’s game. He went 1-7 with five strikeouts.

* The Rangers are 27-21 on Mothers’ Day all time, which includes two doubleheaders.

* With the Rangers scoring in all three games in Houston, the Rangers and Yankees are still the only Major League teams that have not been shutout this season. The Rangers have scored just one run in a game to avoid a shutout eight times.

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