Rangers 8, Astros 7

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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)—Hank Blalock isn’t offering any complex explanation for his torrid hitting streak. He just keeps hammering the ball.

Blalock’s fourth hit Saturday was a go-ahead homer with two outs in the eighth inning, and the Texas Rangers beat Houston 8-7 for their eighth straight win.

“Any hitter will tell you that you go through phases you see the ball good,” said Blalock, who is hitting .483 (28-of-58) over his last 15 games. “I try to lay off bad pitches and hit the good ones.”

Manager Buck Showalter talked about the difficulty of what Blalock is accomplishing. Then he smiled when somebody asked if the 23-year-old slugger was the best overall third baseman in the league.

“I’m really happy with him. I’m glad he’s a Ranger,” Showalter said. “I trust Hank, I trust the way he approaches the game. He’s going to be as good as he’s capable of being every day.”

Blalock was 4-for-5, matching a career high, and had two doubles. His 18th homer came off Dan Miceli (3-3), the fourth Astros pitcher.

In last year’s All-Star game, Blalock hit the go-ahead homer—also in the eighth—to give the AL a victory. He is a distant second in fan balloting for this year’s game behind New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, the AL MVP as Texas’ shortstop last season.

Kevin Mench also homered and Alfonso Soriano was 4-for-5—all singles—for the Rangers, who lead the AL West.

Texas has the longest winning streak in the majors. San Francisco carried a seven-game streak into its game Saturday night at Oakland, which along with Anaheim trailed the Rangers by 2 1/2 games.

Houston, which claimed the Lone Star Series the last two seasons, lost for the second time in less than 24 hours since acquiring outfielder Carlos Beltran from Kansas City in a three-way trade in which they gave up closer Octavio Dotel.

Beltran was 1-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. In his debut Friday night, he had two of Houston’s three hits and scored the only run in a 3-1 loss to the Rangers.

The Astros tied the game at 7 when Lance Berkman’s three-run double capped a four-run outburst in the seventh inning. Adam Everett’s RBI single had chased starter John Wasdin.

“If there’s any silver lining, we battled back from a four-run deficit when it didn’t look like we’d get much done,” Berkman said. “Whoever we’ve been playing has been getting all the breaks. … The game is not fair, it’s maddening.”

Carlos Almanzar (6-0), the sixth Texas pitcher, pitched one inning and has the most wins without a loss in the majors. Francisco Cordero pitched the ninth for his 22nd save in 24 chances.

“If we see the starter go five or six innings, (the relievers) think it’s our game and we’ll take care of the rest,” said Almanzar, who had pitched in just 18 major league games the past three seasons. “It feels pretty good to help my team win.”

Houston’s four-run seventh helped Tim Redding avoid his fourth straight loss over five starts. He gave up six runs on 10 hits, six from the last eight hitters he faced.

“He threw a lot of pitches early, which is uncharacteristic of him,” manager Jimy Williams said. “He was erratic with his command.”

After Michael Young’s leadoff single in the fifth, Blalock had his second double—a hard shot down the line that bounced under first baseman Mike Lamb’s glove and into the right-field corner to break a 3-3 tie. Soriano followed with a single to chase Redding.

Mike Gallo then faced only three batters, giving up Brad Fullmer’s second RBI single on his first pitch, and hitting Mark Teixeira on the second. David Dellucci’s sacrifice fly made it 6-3.

Mench led off the sixth with his seventh homer.

The Rangers took a 2-0 lead after consecutive singles by Blalock and Soriano in the first. Fullmer had his first RBI single and Soriano scored when Teixeira grounded out to Lamb, who recovered after bobbling the ball.

Lamb’s sixth homer tied the game at 2 in the fourth, two innings after Jeff Bagwell had a leadoff double and scored on a single by Brad Ausmus. Lamb played first while Bagwell was the DH.

The Rangers regained the lead on Dellucci’s RBI single in the fourth, butCraig Biggio led off the fifth with his ninth homer to make it 3-3.


Rangers C Rod Barajas stretch his hitting streak to a career-best 10 games with a fourth-inning single. … Pregame rain kept the teams from on-field batting practice for the second straight day. It was raining at thestart and end of the game, but there were no delays.

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