HOUSTON (AP) — Gerrit Cole struck out a season-high 12, Aledmys Diaz hit a grand slam while starting in place of injured star Jose Altuve and the Houston Astros beat the Texas Rangers 11-4 Saturday night.
Altuve sat out a night after straining his left hamstring, but Houston didn’t need him. Diaz took Kyle Dowdy deep into the Crawford Boxes for a 6-1 lead in the sixth, and the Astros didn’t look back.
Cole (4-4) gave up a run and four hits in six innings for his third straight win. He has at least eight strikeouts in eight of nine starts this season and leads the majors with 86 punchouts.
The Astros won their fourth straight game, handing Texas its fourth loss in five games, including three straight in Houston.
After Jesse Chavez started for Texas and retired all three batters in the first inning, Drew Smyly (0-3) made his first relief appearance since 2014. In 4 2/3 innings, Smyly allowed one run, four hits and four walks. He was pulled after walking the bases loaded before Diaz homered.
Hunter Pence hit his seventh homer in the second inning over a leaping Josh Reddick to put the Rangers up 1-0. Pence has homered in four of the last five games, and he had another robbed by Reddick on Thursday.
Michael Brantley tied it at 1 in the fourth with his 10th homer of the season.
Texas’ Ronald Guzman hit a towering homer off Chris Devenski that trimmed Houston’s lead to 6-4 in the seventh.
Houston answered with a three-run seventh, going back up 9-4 on an RBI single from Tyler White and a two-run single from Robinson Chirinos. The Astros added two more insurance runs in the eighth inning on RBI singles from Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel.
Houston manager AJ Hinch said he’s “not optimistic” Altuve can avoid the 10-day injured list. Hinch said Altuve has undergone tests and the team is still waiting for a final diagnosis on the severity of the injury.
MCHUGH TO THE BULLPEN
Hinch said he was moving Collin McHugh to the bullpen. After a 3-1 start to the season, McHugh allowed 25 runs in his last four starts, going 0-3 in that stretch. His ERA has ballooned to 6.37.
Rangers: RHP Shawn Kelley (infection) threw a bullpen session on Saturday. Kelley has been on the 10-day IL since May 6 with a bacterial infection.
Astros RHP Corbin Martin is expected to be called up from Triple-A Round Rock to make his MLB debut in place of McHugh on Sunday. The Rangers will start RHP Adrian Sampson (0-2, 4.41).