Kazmir struggles and Astros swept after 4-3 loss to Rangers
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — New Houston Astros starter Scott Kazmir is no stranger to the Texas Rangers.
Kazmir’s 11 career wins against the Rangers are more than he has against any other team, and the left-hander had two scoreless starts against them earlier this season — even before his impressive July allowing one earned run over 34 innings in five starts.
But Kazmir couldn’t get another win against Texas and prevent the AL West-leading Astros from a three-game sweep. His fielding error against the leadoff hitter led to three unearned runs in the first inning Wednesday night and the Rangers went on to win the series finale 4-3.
“It all started with me. It did. I didn’t set the tone well. It was an easy play right in front of me and I just rushed it,” Kazmir said. “A couple errors early on against a team like that gave ’em momentum. It’s tough.”
Speedy center fielder Delino DeShields reached when Kazmir (6-6) was unable to cleanly field the roller in front of the plate and his throw to first was late. Ryan Strausborger, in his first major league at-bat, had a sacrifice bunt but reached on catcher Hank Conger’s throwing error.
Prince Fielder had a sac fly before consecutive RBI singles by Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus. Chris Gimenez led off the second with a solo homer for a 4-0 lead.
“I think the whole game starts in the first inning. We just didn’t get into the game,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “We had opportunities in the sixth and ninth, but we obviously need to get out of town and get to a new city.”
Houston opens a four-game series in Oakland on Thursday.
The third-place Rangers have won four in a row and seven of eight, moving within five games of the division lead, the closest they have been since June 30. The Los Angeles Angels won earlier Wednesday and are two games back of Houston.
Kazmir, in his third start for Houston since a July 23 trade from Oakland, still lowered his AL-best ERA from 2.10 to 2.08 since only one run against him was earned. He struck out five in his 5 2/3 innings.
He had thrown 14 2/3 scoreless innings in his first two starts for Houston, the end of his spectacular 0.26 ERA in July.
Nick Martinez (7-6), the Texas right-hander starting on his 25th birthday, walked three and struck out one while throwing 86 pitches in a game which started with the temperature at 100 degrees.
With 20-save closer Shawn Tolleson unavailable after pitching six of the previous seven games, Sam Dyson got his second career save — both since a Friday trade from Miami. He closed it out only after allowing a leadoff single in the ninth and hitting Jose Altuve with a pitch.
“It wasn’t pretty, typically you don’t win a ball game when you walk eight and hit one,” manager Jeff Banister said.
All three Houston runs were scored by players who reached on a walk.
Houston was within 4-3 after five consecutive batters reached with one out in the sixth against two relievers.
Carlos Correa and Jed Lowrie drew consecutive walks before Evan Gattis’ RBI single. Sam Freeman, after replacing Phil Klein, walked the first two batters he faced, including Conger with the bases loaded.
Carlos Gomez had a leadoff walk in the fourth and scored on a double by Lowrie.
“That’s a tough day,” Hinch said. “Eight walks and a hit-by-pitch; we just didn’t score enough runs.”
There were a lot of defensive highlights. In the Texas fifth when Astros CF Gomez had a long running catch in the gap, 2B Altuve made a diving play to his left and 20-year-old SS Correa went into the hole toward third base and then and made a long jump-step throw for an out. An inning earlier, Texas SS Elvis Andrus made a similar play and rookie RF Strausborger had an inning-ending diving catch.
Astros: OF Preston Tucker is day to day with a bruised triceps muscle after getting hit by a pitch in Tuesday night’s game.
Astros: Scott Feldman (4-5) starts Thursday when Houston starts a four-game series at Oakland, the second of three consecutive road series.
Rangers: After a day off Thursday, the Rangers open a weekend series Friday at Seattle with LHP Cole Hamels making his second start for Texas since his trade from Philadelphia.