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Bats stifled, Rangers rack up K's in Houston

MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

HOUSTON -- Doug Fister gave the Rangers a quality start on Saturday night, a pitching measurement defined by going six innings or more and allowing three earned runs or fewer.

The Rangers have received 13 such performances this season and are 8-5 in those games. But quality is no match for dominance, and that's what the Astros have been getting from their starters this season.

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- Doug Fister gave the Rangers a quality start on Saturday night, a pitching measurement defined by going six innings or more and allowing three earned runs or fewer.

The Rangers have received 13 such performances this season and are 8-5 in those games. But quality is no match for dominance, and that's what the Astros have been getting from their starters this season.

View Full Game Coverage

They did so again on Saturday night as right-hander Charlie Morton held the Rangers to one run in seven innings in a 6-1 victory at Minute Maid Park. He allowed four hits and set a career-high with 14 strikeouts.

"Well, when a guy's got a plus-plus curveball, it makes it tough," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "The other thing is he's throwing it 96-97 [mph] in the good areas of the strike zone, and out of the strike zone when he needs to. The thing I know about our offense, when we make the starter work early in the game, we have success. The challenge for us tonight was that Charlie was throwing strikes; he was being stingy with just about everything."

Fister went 6 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on four hits, three walks and four strikeouts. Two of the hits were solo home runs by Brian McCann in the fourth and Evan Gattis in the fifth.

Video: TEX@HOU: Gattis smashes solo home run deep to left

"At times things were great, at times I left some balls over the plate," Fister said. "Overall, some pitches I would like to take back, but not a terrible, terrible night."

Banister said he felt Fister did a "great" job for the Rangers and this was the sixth time in seven starts that he has allowed three or fewer earned runs.

"I felt like he threw the ball extremely well," Banister said. "The one home run to Gattis, I thought was a quality pitch, sinker down in the zone. The second home run to McCann looked like a backdoor cutter that McCann stayed on and drove out of the ballpark. Other than that, I thought he did a great job."

Video: TEX@HOU: Fister strikes out Altuve swinging in 2nd

It's just tough when going up against a premier starting rotation like the Astros, not only with Morton, but Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers Jr., Dallas Keuchel and Gerrit Cole.

The only run allowed by Morton came on a two-out home run by Ronald Guzman in the third, his second of the season. Morton had retired the first eight batters he faced before Guzman hit one into the right-field seats with an exit velocity of 110 mph.

Quality starts? The Astros now have 31 in 41 games. This was also the 13th time their starter has pitched at least seven innings and allowed one run or less. Rangers starters have done it twice.

"They've got five really good arms," Rangers outfielder Delino DeShields said. "We knew that coming in. We just have to put together quality AB's as much as we can. Try to stay short, compact to the ball and not try to do too much. Create traffic on the bases and you never know what can happen. You can't try to beat these guys with one swing of the bat."

Astros starters are now 20-9 with a 2.30 ERA after 41 games, while Rangers starters are 10-18 with a 5.10. There are other discrepancies between the two teams, but right now, starting pitching is the most pronounced.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Fister wasn't happy with how he started the third inning after Guzman's home run gave him a 1-0 lead. He opened the inning by falling behind Josh Reddick 3-0 in the count, and gave up a double. Reddick scored on a single by Gattis.

Video: TEX@HOU: Gattis lines an RBI single up the middle

"Those kinds of things are what bothers me," Fister said. "Those are the kinds of things that I look into and watch objectively tomorrow on the computer and watch video and take it into account and figure out what I need to do to correct those situations."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Rangers ran the old deflection defense to save a run in the third. With Gattis at second and two out, Alex Bregman smacked a high chopper up the middle that deflected off Fister's glove and even higher in the air. Instead of heading for center field, the deflection veered the ball to the right side of the infield, and second baseman Rougned Odor caught the ball on the run, flipping to first for the out. 

HE SAID IT
"Yeah, you'd like to cut the strikeouts down. That's not what we want as our identity. We've got to get to work on figuring out how we can slow that pace down. But, part of it is some of the starters we've faced, also." -- Banister, on the Rangers' league-leading strikeout total

UP NEXT
Left-hander Matt Moore makes his second start this season against the Astros on Sunday. He allowed four runs on seven hits in a 9-3 loss to Houston on March 31. He is 0-1 with a 10.34 ERA in his last four starts since beating the Rays on April 17. The Astros will answer with Keuchel for the 1:10 p.m. CT start.

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.

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