ARLINGTON -- As one of the more experienced members of the Astros' roster, Evan Gattis has an extensive resume against many of baseball's veteran pitchers. Specifically, he has quite the track record against Rangers left-hander Cole Hamels, and that came in handy Thursday night at Globe Life Park.
Gattis knocked his 10th home run and drove in three runs in the Astros' 5-2 win over the Rangers to open the four-game set in Arlington. His two-run homer off Hamels in the fourth broke a 1-1 tie, and his RBI single in the sixth that drove in Jose Altuve provided an unneeded cushion for the 39-25 Astros, who remain a game behind the first-place Mariners in the American League West.
"It was good to get some pitches to hit," manager AJ Hinch said. "[Gattis is] really threatening when he stays in the strike zone. He's really comfortable to some extent against Hamels in the past. Some really big hits for us in a night where we started out a little bit slow."
Gattis, who was 2-for-4, now has 12 hits in 34 career at-bats against Hamels for a .353 batting average. His homer on Thursday was his fourth against the Rangers lefty, the most among active players. (David Wright has five but hasn't played since 2016 due to injuries.)
"I know I've had some success against him," Gattis said. "I don't know why -- it's been different pitches and different stuff but maybe some guys you just kind of see better."
Said Hamels: "If you look at everything that he's hit, when he's hit it throughout his career, a lot of balls down the middle. When you have a guy with that type of strength, he's putting them out of the stadium. You can't leave balls down the middle, no matter the situation. So I think that's kind of the case really when you go and approach a hitter like him. You really can't leave pitches down the middle."
After a slow start to the season, Gattis has improved of late. Over his past 10 games, he has homered six times and driven in 14 runs. Since May 12, he has 12 extra-base hits and 23 RBIs, spanning 21 games.
The key to the turnaround? Simplify, simplify, simplify.
"I'm hitting the pitches I should," he said. "I've been sticking with the process, kind of fine-tuning the practice. Mentally, you're just not afraid to make an out. I'm trying to get a good pitch to hit high and far somewhere … just not being timid and getting good pitches to hit."
It also helps that Gattis loves playing at Globe Life Park, the ballpark he frequented as a kid growing up in the Dallas area. Gattis insisted that he doesn't feel more comfortable there than other Major League parks, but judging from the numbers, it's fair to wonder if the familiar surroundings are providing a positive emotional boost.
Of Gattis' three games that have produced three or more RBIs this season, two have come at Globe Life Park. Overall against the Rangers this season, Gattis has 11 hits in 36 at-bats (.306).
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Astros starter Gerrit Cole improved to 7-1 on the season, allowing one run over six innings while striking out eight. The outing lowered his season ERA to 2.16. The Astros are 11-2 in his starts this season, including winning each of his three starts vs. Texas.
Cole issued a leadoff walk to Shin-Soo Choo and allowed hits to Jurickson Profar and Adrian Beltre to open the first, but he struck out Isiah Kiner-Falefa with two on to escape the inning having given up just one run. The Rangers managed only one more hit off the right-hander.
"We just had a little bit of unfortunate luck with the wind and a couple of ground balls going through the shift, just finding holes," Cole said. "It's not an ideal way to start the game off, but it probably could have been prevented a little bit with the walk to start the game off. That wasn't great. I had good stuff and ended up giving a solid effort. Guys picked me up offensively."
Altuve improved his MLB-best road batting average to .412 with a three-hit night, logging singles in each of his final three at-bats. The second baseman has 54 hits in 131 at-bats on the road this season and has an active seven-game road hitting streak, during which he is batting .581 (18-for-31).
HE SAID IT
"It's incredible to watch him put up at-bat after at-bat. When he's disciplined and he senses he's got the pitcher timed up and ready to execute an at-bat, he's the best at getting hits. That's why he leads the world in hits every year. He's truly one of the best, most gifted hitters in baseball by how he goes about his at-bats, by how he puts every pitch in play. There's no pitch he can't hit, which can be a blessing and a curse, but most of the time, it's a blessing." --Hinch, on Altuve
Right-hander Justin Verlander will take the mound for the Astros on Friday at 7:05 p.m. CT, the second game of the four-game series with the Rangers at Globe Life Park. The game will mark the 399th career start for Verlander, a veteran of 14 seasons. He'll become the 117th pitcher in baseball's modern era to make 400 career starts in his following outing, and the third active pitcher. The other two are Bartolo Colon (539) and Carsten Sabathia (520). The Rangers will counter with righty Doug Fister.