ARLINGTON -- Considering how much of a battle escaping the first inning has been this season for Dallas Keuchel, striking out the first three Rangers batters he faced Tuesday night was a great sign for the Astros. Keuchel didn't stop there.The left-hander held the Rangers to five hits and two
ARLINGTON -- Considering how much of a battle escaping the first inning has been this season for Dallas Keuchel, striking out the first three Rangers batters he faced Tuesday night was a great sign for the Astros. Keuchel didn't stop there.
The left-hander held the Rangers to five hits and two runs in seven innings -- his longest start since May 13 -- and Josh Reddick and Tony Kemp both swatted home runs in the third inning to send the Astros to a 5-3 win over the Rangers at Globe Life Park, snapping their three-game losing streak.
"He was very good early, just pounding the strike zone and staying with his strengths," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "They never really got good swings on him. There were a couple of seeing-eye base hits again -- maybe one or two balls hit hard -- but he kept coming in the strike zone. It looked like he could control his pitches. It was probably the best breaking ball he had this year, and [he had] action on his pitches."
Keuchel (5-8) struck out seven batters and recorded 10 ground-ball outs.
"I came out attacking the zone and we scored a few runs early," he said. "That alleviated a lot of the stress for me and allowed me to settle in and make some pitches."
The stress for the Astros was saved for the final two innings, with Hector Rondon escaping a bases-loaded jam to end the eighth before closing out the ninth for a 35-pitch save. That was his sixth save this year, and his second of at least four outs.
"It was an impressive ending for him," Hinch said. "I thought we started the game very well and had a little bit of drama there at the end, but good win for us."
Rondon wasn't the only bullpen hero. Tony Sipp was thrown into a bases-loaded mess in the eighth and got Rougned Odor to ground into a fielder's choice on a terrific diving stop by first baseman Yuli Gurriel.
A run scored, but that allowed Rondon to endure a 12-pitch battle against Joey Gallo that ended in a walk before striking out Robinson Chirinos to end the eighth.
"I know the hard part to me that inning was [Gallo]," Rondon said. "I feel like he was, in that moment, the only one who could do damage. I know Chirinos is a good hitter, but Gallo has more chance to hit [a homer]. I tried to rest, I tried to breathe and slow everything down."
The Astros sent eight batters to the plate in the first inning against Rangers starter Austin Bibens-Dirkx (1-1), taking a 2-0 lead on a Gurriel single and a Reddick double that barely missed clearing the wall.
Reddick did clear the wall with one out in the third by hitting his first homer since April 21 to make it 3-1.
"I felt good tonight and put some barrels on the ball, which is something I've been doing for the last week or so and haven't been getting paid for it," Reddick said. "Even though I picked up myself here in the last two weeks, the singles are great, but they do get old when you're trying to drive the ball in the gap and hopefully hit the ball out of the ballpark."
Kemp, the Astros' No. 9-hole hitter, walloped a two-run homer to right field later in the third for a 5-1 lead. It was only the second homer of the season for Kemp. The Astros extended their franchise record for consecutive road games with a homer to 23.
"He made some good pitches tonight, and I was lucky enough to get a changeup in a good zone and able to put a good swing on it," Kemp said. "I think the wind was blowing out a little, so that helped me, too."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rondon has emerged as the Astros' clear-cut closer, and for good reason. He has been scoreless in all 17 games on the road this season after recording a four-out save, which included two strikeouts. Rondon came back out for the ninth inning after throwing 17 pitches in the eighth inning, including his 12-pitch battle with Gallo.
"He's been at the back end of some really good teams," Hinch said. "It's no surprise he can handle the moment. He's got 99 [mph], he's got some breaking balls, he's got a changeup he didn't use. He kept pumping in strikes to a guy who can leave the yard. That's the matchup both teams wanted, to be honest. To hang in there, keep throwing strikes, not concede -- he did walk him -- but kept his poise and got the next guy pretty easily."
HE SAID IT
"We're kind of spoiled with our catchers, but the way he handles the game not expecting to play, that was really impressive. My hat goes off to him, for sure." -- Keuchel on catcher Tim Federowicz, who caught the final eight innings after starter Max Stassi left the game with a bruised wrist in the first inning
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Astros challenged a play in the ninth inning, in which George Springer appeared to be thrown out at first base by Rangers second baseman Odor after a line drive off the bat of Alex Bregman. Springer was called out diving back into first, and after the replay review, the call stood.
The Astros will send right-hander Gerrit Cole to the mound for Wednesday's 6:05 p.m. CT finale against the Rangers at Globe Life Park. Cole makes his first start in July after going 4-1 with a 3.41 ERA in six starts in June. The Astros are 14-3 in games started by Cole, who is looking to reach double-digit wins. Lefty Mike Minor (6-4, 4.64 ERA) will start for Texas.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.