Rangers hold off Astros after Hamels sets tone

Rangers hold off Astros after Hamels sets tone

ARLINGTON -- Cole Hamels kept the Astros in their slump by pitching seven scoreless innings in the Rangers' 6-4 victory in the opener of a three-game series Friday night. The Astros have lost four in a row for the first time this season and 11 of their last 15.

Hamels allowed just three hits and two walks while striking out five for his second straight win. He threw a complete game on Sunday in a 4-1 win over the Twins and is now 7-1 with a 3.31 ERA in 14 starts.

"I felt pretty good," Hamels said. "What I was able to do last week, I was able to continue that ... keep the same mindset and throw strikes. When you're able to do that, guys are going to hit some balls."

Hamels hit on knee, stays in

Hamels' scoreless start

Astros starter Charlie Morton, after going 4-1 with a 3.35 ERA in his previous six outings, took the loss by allowing five runs, three earned, in 5 2/3 innings. Astros starters are 2-7 with a 6.28 ERA in their last 15 starts.

Elvis Andrus led the Rangers with three hits, including two doubles, and scored three runs. The Rangers had 10 hits but were held without a home run for only the 21st time in 114 games. The Rangers are 7-14 when they don't hit a home run. This was only the fourth time in those 21 games the Rangers scored at least six runs.

"It was a change for us," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "We haven't done that enough. I liked our approach off Morton, staying off pitches on the edge and looking to go up the middle. It was good manufacturing runs. It's what we need to do when the home runs don't show up."

George Springer ended the shutout with a two-run home run off right-hander Jose Leclerc in the eighth. It was Springer's 28th home run but first since July 7, and it ignited a four-run rally.

Springer's two-run home run

But Alex Claudio shut down the Astros in the ninth, striking out Jose Altuve looking to end the game and strand two runners on base.

Claudio rewards Banister with clutch K

"It's a good battle, down six in the eighth and get the game-winning run up at the plate," Springer said. "That's a good sign."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rangers work four hole: A walk, an error and four singles led to four runs in the third inning for the Rangers. All four hits were singles straight up the middle, either a ground ball or line drive over second base. The biggest hit was a two-out, two-run single by Carlos Gomez that gave the Rangers a 4-0 lead. Morton also started the trouble by walking Mike Napoli to lead off the inning and later misplayed Shin-Soo Choo's sacrifice to that loaded the bases.

"Really big right there with Gomez, coming through with the two-out base hit," Banister said.

Gomez's two-run single

Mazara catch stops rally: The Astros scored four in the eighth inning, making it 6-4, and it took a sterling defensive catch by right fielder Nomar Mazara to stop the rally. Brian McCann came up with a runner on second with two out and smashed a line drive to right. But Mazara raced in and snagged it before it fell for another hit that would have made it a one-run game.

"I got a good jump and was able to make a good catch," Mazara said.

Mazara's diving catch

QUOTABLE
"He has a lot of heart and isn't afraid of a challenge. I'm glad he's in our bullpen." -- Andrus, on Claudio

"I thought it was a ball, but it was a strike. Now tomorrow I have to apologize to the umpire." -- Altuve, after arguing the final pitch of the game

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre had two hits, including an RBI double in the fifth. He now has 3,010 hits, tying Wade Boggs for 28th all-time, and 606 doubles, tied with Paul Waner for 13th.

Beltre's RBI double

Beltre also had the defensive play of the game, diving to his left to take a hit away from Alex Bregman leading off the fourth.

Beltre's superb diving stop

WHAT'S NEXT
Astros: Right-hander Mike Fiers faces the Rangers at 7:35 p.m. CT Saturday at Globe Life Park. Fiers is 0-2 with a 7.16 ERA in his past three starts. He is 0-1 with a 6.56 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance in his career against the Rangers.

Rangers: Right-hander Tyson Ross comes off the disabled list to pitch against the Astros. He has been on the DL since July 24 with a blister on his right index finger. This is just his second career start against the Astros and first since 2015. The Rangers will retire Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez's No. 7 before the game and both clubs will wear uniforms from 1999 as part of the celebration. Preview >>

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T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter..

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.