ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman homered on consecutive fastballs for the Houston Astros before the game’s first out, giving Justin Verlander a three-run lead before he even took the mound.
Add in a few doubles, including one by George Springer that should have been a home run, and the Astros won for the 11th time in 12 games with a 7-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Friday night.
“Boys did a great job tonight. Putting runs up early and often is a great recipe for success,” Verlander said. “Once we got a big lead, I just kind of pulled back a little bit trying to go in energy conversation mode, just hit some spots and try to get deep in the game.”
Verlander (3-0) limited the Rangers to one run and three hits over seven innings. He struck out eight and walked three.
“He’s a very smart guy. He never throws you the same thing more than once,” Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “He’s constantly changing timing of a hitter, velocity. Keep it high and low. You never feel comfortable.”
Texas didn’t get a runner to second base until the fifth inning. The Rangers, whose four-game winning streak had been the longest in the AL, got their only runs on solo homers by Danny Santana in the sixth and Joey Gallo, who hit a towering blast measured at 442 feet in the ninth.
Springer doubled twice, including one that appeared to clear the wall and ricochet back onto the field. Instead of a homer, after a crew chief review requested by manager AJ Hinch, Springer had one of Houston’s four doubles in a three-run fifth inning that made it 7-0.
“I thought it hit the pole behind it, but sometimes they’re attached to the wall,” Hinch said. “(The umpires) just said they didn’t confirm the call.”
There were two on and two outs when Springer’s liner bounced off a metal railing just beyond the 8-foot wall in the right field corner. It was initially ruled a double, and that call stood after the replay review.
Michael Brantley, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel had consecutive doubles to open the fifth for the Astros.
Springer led off the game against Drew Smyly (0-2) with a double and scored when Altuve homered off the left field pole. Bregman went deep on the next pitch to make it 3-0 before the first out.
“I think they just came out early kind of ambushing, looking for fastballs and I gave up three straight hits off it for double, home run, home run,” Smyly said. “That really just set the tone for the game.”
Smyly struck out eight but walked three and allowed four runs while throwing 102 pitches in his 3 2/3 innings. The lefty has pitched only 15 innings in his four starts for the Rangers, after spending last season in the Chicago Cubs organization rehabbing from Tommy John surgery he had in July 2017.
“You could see how more effective he was when he started mixing up his pitches,” manager Chris Woodward said. “Eight strikeouts in 3 2/3 shows he had them off balance.”
The Astros were 2-5 a week into this season after losing two of three at Texas. They followed that with a 10-game winning streak that pushed them back into the AL West lead, and were coming off their first loss since they got back to Globe Life Park for the second time already this season.
The Astros had a season high 13 strikeouts against the first three Rangers pitchers. … Altuve, who also had an RBI single, and has seven HRs and 14 RBIs his last 10 games. … Rangers LHP Brett Martin, called up before the game, made his big league debut with a perfect ninth on nine pitches.
Astros: RHP Gerrit Cole (1-2, 3.24) has 36 strikeouts and only six walks in his first four starts. He lost at the Rangers on April 3, when he allowed three runs and four hits over six innings.
Rangers: Adrian Sampson (0-1, 5.93) makes his second start filling in the rotation spot of Edinson Volquez, who is on the injured list. Sampson allowed seven runs pitching into the seventh Sunday against Oakland.