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Six-run third nets Rangers sixth straight win

Six-run third nets Rangers sixth straight win

HOUSTON -- Through the first six games on their current road trip, Rangers pitchers had more hits than Justin Smoak.

On Friday night against the Astros, Smoak was able to catch up, even though Rangers pitchers continue to wield a potent bat against their National League counterparts. Well, at least occasionally.

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True, 4-for-17 is only a .235 batting average, but the hits have come in key moments. And on Friday night, Scott Feldman joined in on the fun.

Feldman's one-out double in the third inning ignited a six-run rally against Astros pitcher Wandy Rodriguez, and the Rangers rolled to a 9-3 victory in the first game of the 2010 Lone Star Series. The Rangers have now won six in a row, they are a season-high 11 games over .500 and they remain 2 1/2 games ahead of the Angels in the American League West.

Smoak, who was 2-for-22 on the road trip going into Friday's game, drove in four runs with a double and his seventh home run of the season. Josh Hamilton, who extended his hitting streak to 14 games, was 3-for-5 with a triple and a two-run single.

"It was a great night for everybody," Smoak said. "When guys are getting on base in front of you, big things can happen. That's what happened, and a lot of good things happened tonight."

Feldman's double, the first extra-base hit by a Rangers pitcher this season, started it all. In three of Texas' six wins in NL parks, its pitcher has delivered a big hit in a key situation.

"The coaches did a good job preparing them going into the National League cities," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "They worked hard, took it seriously and we're reaping the benefits."

Feldman also did his part on the mound, holding the Astros to three runs in seven innings. He has now won his past two starts -- both on the road -- and is 4-2 with a 4.35 ERA in his past six starts.

"I just had some really bad starts at the beginning of the season and it got me in a rut," Feldman said. "I've felt fine the last six or seven starts. It's about feeling comfortable on the mound and not feeling for my mechanics. Hopefully, it will continue to improve."

Feldman held the Astros scoreless through five innings and was working on a 13 2/3 scoreless-innings streak before he gave up three runs in the sixth. By that time, he was sitting on a nine-run lead. He finished strong with a scoreless seventh and is now 5-6 with a 5.16 ERA on the season.

"He is good. He's got a good, hard cutter," Astros third baseman Geoff Blum said. "He's got a good breaking ball. He did a good job hitting his spots and getting in the zone. That's what championship teams do. They get good pitching and timely hitting. There's no relief -- at least not until you get down to Feldman. They took advantage of every mistake we made."

The two teams were scoreless when Feldman came up with one out in the third inning and lined a double down the right-field line. That was the first extra-base hit by a Rangers pitcher since a double by Kevin Millwood on June 26, 2008, against the Astros.

"I just happened to get lucky," said Feldman, who was 1-for-4 on the night. "Pretty much anytime I get a hit is luck. I haven't hit in so long, I'm just trying not to look like an idiot out there. I got lucky and got the barrel of the bat on the ball."

That also must have rattled Rodriguez, because he then walked three of the next four batters to force in the Rangers' first run.

"We were trying to figure out what he was going to do," Hamilton said. "The first at-bat, he threw me a lot of breaking balls. The second at-bat, he threw me a lot of fastballs. The biggest thing is we made him throw strikes."

Then, Hamilton and Smoak unloaded. Hamilton laced a two-run single to left, and Smoak hit one into deep right-center that fell for a double. Two runs scored and Smoak came around later on a single by Matt Treanor.

That gave the Rangers a 6-0 lead, and Smoak added a two-run home run in the fifth. That was his first home run since June 4.

"The road trip didn't start off great, but that's one of those things," Smoak said. "You feel good for a week and you feel bad for a week. You've got to find a way to feel the same way and stay consistent. That's what I'm trying to work on."

Smoak finished 2-for-5 on the night and is 4-for-27 on the trip. He has two more games to pass the pitchers, but his competition is stiff. Colby Lewis, who pitches Saturday, had two hits in his last start, and C.J. Wilson, who goes Sunday, had a double in Spring Training.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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