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Moore challenged by Astros in Rangers debut

MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- This was not the first impression left-hander Matt Moore wanted to make with the Rangers.

Moore, acquired from the Giants in the offseason, could only make it through four innings in his debut start for Texas. He allowed four runs on seven hits, and the Rangers fell for the second time in three games to the Astros with a 9-3 loss on Saturday afternoon.

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ARLINGTON -- This was not the first impression left-hander Matt Moore wanted to make with the Rangers.

Moore, acquired from the Giants in the offseason, could only make it through four innings in his debut start for Texas. He allowed four runs on seven hits, and the Rangers fell for the second time in three games to the Astros with a 9-3 loss on Saturday afternoon.

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The Rangers' offense had just five hits and four walks while striking out 13 times. Elvis Andrus had two of the hits, including his first home run of the season. Lance McCullers Jr., who struck out 10 in 5 1/3 innings, earned his first career victory against the Rangers.

"He threw the ball well and made it extremely challenging for us offensively," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.

Banister said Moore veered away from his initial plan to be aggressive with the fastball and that hurt him at times.

"He had a slow tempo early, kind of got away from his game plan of using his fastball," Banister said. "Seems like most the damage was off the offspeed stuff. Really, his best inning was the last inning, when he attacked with his fastball."

Video: HOU@TEX: Banister on Moore's debut, loss

Moore admitted he was eager to make a good first impression in front of a crowd of 36,892 and a national television audience.

"I don't think it got in the way of things I wanted to do today, but there was more excitement heading into the game than in Spring Training," Moore said. "My first time out, most of that wore off after the first inning."

Moore was able to escape the first without giving up a run despite two-out singles from Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. But Evan Gattis led off the second with a double and, after J.D. Davis struck out, the first run scored on Brian McCann's bloop single to right.

Jake Marisnick, hitting at the bottom of the order, then hit a 2-2 offspeed pitch over the left-field wall for a two-run home run. The Astros made it 4-0 in the top of the third on doubles by Correa and Marwin Gonzalez.

Video: TEX@HOU: Marisnick launches two-run HR to left-center

Moore set down the side in order in the fourth, striking out McCann and George Springer before the Rangers went to the bullpen. He finished with six strikeouts and did not walk a batter, so the Rangers believe there are some things to build on for his next start.

"Good first inning, good fourth inning," Moore said. "I have to be better with those middle innings and get us back in the dugout."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Popup falls: The Astros had Gattis at third with one out in the second inning when McCann hit a high blooper into shallow right field. Second baseman Rougned Odor and outfielder Nomar Mazara converged on the ball but neither could get it. The ball fell for a run-scoring single and Marisnick followed with his two-run home run.

"It was a challenge for either one of the to get there," Banister said. "You can't cover every single ball that gets hit."

Video: HOU@TEX: McCann drives in Gattis with single to right

Speed on the bases: It's in the Astros' DNA to be aggressive on the bases, and Altuve twice went from first base to third on a single by Correa. Altuve was stranded at third in the first inning, but in the fifth he wound up scoring on a sac fly by Gonzalez.

"We ran in some faces going first to third," Hinch said.

QUOTABLE
"Standard operation day at the office for Jose and Carlos. When those guys hit, it's pretty exciting when the lineup rolls around." -- Hinch

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Adrian Beltre had an RBI double in the sixth, giving him 3,052 hits for his career. He is one hit behind Rod Carew, the Panama native who is the all-time leader for players from Latin America.

Video: HOU@TEX: Beltre plates Andrus with an RBI double

WHAT'S NEXT
Astros: Right-hander Gerrit Cole, acquired from the Pirates in a Jan. 13 trade, will make his Astros debut in Sunday's series finale. He faced the Rangers only once in his career -- throwing seven scoreless innings in his 2013 rookie season.

Rangers: Left-hander Mike Minor will make his first start for the Rangers against the Astros at 2:05 p.m. CT Sunday. It will be his first Major League start since Sept. 20, 2014. He is 1-1 with a 4.57 ERA in three starts and three relief appearances in his career against the Astros

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

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.

Texas Rangers, Matt Moore