ST. PETERSBURG -- Carrying heavy hearts, their minds surely still flickering back to the hurricane victims in Houston, the Astros could have used a win. With Dallas Keuchel starting, for three innings they figured to have the right pitcher on the mound to pick up a victory, but all of
ST. PETERSBURG -- Carrying heavy hearts, their minds surely still flickering back to the hurricane victims in Houston, the Astros could have used a win. With Dallas Keuchel starting, for three innings they figured to have the right pitcher on the mound to pick up a victory, but all of a sudden it was no longer the lefty's day.
The Rangers touched up Keuchel for six runs in the fourth inning, Mike Napoli's three-run homer putting a dent in the Astros' hopes in an 8-1 loss at Tropicana Field on Wednesday.
"He was really good early and then just got burned in the one inning," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Keuchel. "When you put up a big inning like that with as well as [Andrew] Cashner was throwing, it's hard to overcome."
Before the game, the Astros announced that they'll return home after Thursday's series finale here for their weekend set vs. the Mets, with Friday's series opener rescheduled as part of a day-night doubleheader on Saturday.
Keuchel had been brilliant of late, entering the night with a 2-0 mark and 1.31 ERA over his previous three starts. Opposing hitters were batting .178 against him in those 20 2/3 innings.
That number shrunk in the early innings as the left-hander retired the first 10 Rangers he faced. Elvis Andrus' one-out single in the fourth gave the Rangers their first baserunner of the night, and while it appeared to be of little consequence the way Keuchel was throwing, it was just the start of things to come.
Nomar Mazara doubled and Adrian Beltre walked, loading the bases. Keuchel issued a second walk to Joey Gallo, forcing in the game's first run on a borderline, full-count pitch. Carlos Gomez followed with a two-run single, then Napoli blasted a three-run homer to left field, capping the flurry for a 6-1 Rangers lead.
"I just lost a little bit of focus; I think I let the 3-2 non-call to Gallo really affect me," Keuchel said. "[Home-plate umpire Mark Wegner] had been giving me that strike the first three innings. How quick things can turn if you don't really keep your focus in this game -- that's what happened. I let a good team get to me a little bit, and in the course of three or four pitches, they scored six runs. That's tough. I had some good stuff today."
The Rangers tacked on two more runs with RBI hits from Andrus and Gallo in the ninth inning. Cashner held the Astros to one run over eight innings, fanning six batters looking and allowing just four baserunners en route to his eighth win.
• Cashner stellar in 'heartfelt' start vs. Astros
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Gomez puts Rangers ahead: Gomez lined a knee-high cutter into center field with the bases loaded in the fourth, scoring two runs and giving the Rangers a 3-1 lead. Four games into his return from a disabled-list trip needed to remove a cyst from his right shoulder, Gomez tallied his first RBIs since Aug. 11. It was also the team's third hit of the inning and fifth straight baserunner after Keuchel had held them off the bases for the first three frames.
Napoli snaps a slump: Napoli busted the game open by drilling a 2-2 fastball 415 feet into the left-field bleachers. It was Napoli's first hit since he homered in Anaheim on Thursday, 18 at-bats ago. The six-run outburst tied for the biggest inning Keuchel has suffered in his career.
"It's just crazy, baseball. A couple inches, that's a strike and I'm out and maybe we don't win the game. Just to lay off that, to me I was really proud just because [Keuchel's] a tough pitcher with stuff moving all over the place. And then Gomez comes and shoots a single, Napoli comes up and we put the game away right there in that inning. We were able to cruise. I was pretty proud of that." -- Gallo on laying off Keuchel's 3-2 pitch in the fourth inning for an RBI walk
Rangers: The Rangers finish off their three-game series with the Astros in St. Petersburg on Thursday at 12:10 p.m. CT. Nick Martinez (3-5, 5.26 ERA) will move up a day and switch places in the rotation with Cole Hamels to better position Texas for the stretch run. Martinez has pitched to a 4.91 ERA in three appearances against the Astros this year.
Astros:Collin McHugh (2-2, 3.63) will take the mound in the final game of the Astros' home series at Tropicana Field on Thursday afternoon. The right-hander has pitched well in all but two of his seven starts since making his season debut July 22, though he's been exceptional of late, posting a 1.53 ERA in his past three outings. He hasn't faced the Rangers in 2017, though he struggled to the tune of a 10.13 ERA in two starts against Texas last season.
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Connor Mount is a reporter for MLB.com and covered the Rangers on Wednesday.
Mark Feinsand is an executive reporter for MLB.com and covered the Astros on Wednesday.