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No relief for Astros, Rangers win

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- While the Texas Rangers continue to manufacture victories via contributions throughout their lineup, the Houston Astros remain stuck in a nightmare of an ever-evolving and utterly ineffective bullpen.

The Rangers joined the parade of teams that have victimized the Astros' youthful relief corps of late, scoring four times in a breakout eighth inning to claim a 9-5 victory on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

With five of their seven relievers classified as rookies, the Astros (37-77) recorded their fifth blown save in their last six save opportunities.

"It's the same script, different day," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "And it's one of those things where at some point we're going to have to get out of this funk.

"I personally feel sorry for our starters, but they are not going to show it because they are good teammates.

"This is major league baseball. Whether you get the ball and you are up one or up by three, you are expected to get the job done."

The Rangers (66-50) batted around in the eighth inning, capitalizing on four walks and two hits against four Houston pitchers, including a two-run, two-out double from left-handed-hitting right fielder Leonys Martin off left-hander Wesley Wright that gave Texas a 7-4 lead.

Rangers left fielder Joey Butler walked to load the bases in that inning and set the table for third baseman Jurickson Profar, whose single in the seventh inning scored Butler from second base. Profar worked an eight-pitch walk from Wright before Martin followed with his decisive double.

"It was tremendous," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of the Profar at-bat. "He battled and battled and battled and laid off a pitch down in the zone. He gave us a chance to get Martin up there. Wright left a slider up and he got it and hit it down the line and put a little cushion on the lead."

The Astros threatened by loading the bases in the bottom of the eighth inning, but pinch-hitter Marc Krauss struck out against Neal Cotts, who worked the ninth and earned his first save on the season.

Butler, who might be optioned to Triple-A Round Rock following the acquisition of outfielder Alex Rios from the Chicago White Sox earlier on Friday, doubled and scored off Astros starter Erik Bedard to start the uprising in the seventh. Butler finished 2-for-3 and scored twice.

The Rangers won for the 10th time in 11 games and started their rally in the eighth when Ian Kinsler worked a leadoff walk off Josh Zeid (0-1).

"That pretty much puts you in a hole you can't get out of," Zeid said of the walk. "It's tough to spoil a win for Erik. He pitched a great game."

Astros catcher Jason Castro, whose only previous hit off Rangers right-hander Matt Garza (8-2) was a home run, homered off Garza for a second time leading off the second inning, a 445-foot shot into the upper deck in right field. Houston center fielder Brandon Barnes followed suit in the fifth, crushing a 431-foot home run to center field for a 4-2 lead.

The Rangers grabbed a short-lived lead in the fourth inning when Jeff Baker and Craig Gentry delivered a sacrifice fly and sacrifice bunt, respectively, to score Kinsler and Adrian Beltre, who reached to open inning with a single and walk off Bedard.

But the Astros responded quickly, stroking back-to-back-to-back doubles off Garza, with Jose Altuve and Castro getting RBIs with their hits. L.J. Hoes' leadoff double set the tone for the Astros' two-run inning.

Garza settled down and allowed just three additional baserunners following Barnes' home run. By keeping the Astros in check and working seven innings, Garza enabled Texas to claw its way back.

"Great team win," Garza said. "I stayed long enough in there to let the boys come back and pick it up. Sometimes you give up four (runs) and you get a win. It wasn't my crispest outing; fastball command was off and I was struggling to find it all night. I just worked with (catcher) A.J. (Pierzynski) to guide me along and find a way to get through it."

NOTES: Rangers DH Lance Berkman participated in running drills and batting practice on Friday and, after experiencing no setbacks, will be sent to Triple-A Round Rock for a rehab assignment on Saturday. Berkman has been on the 15-day disabled list since July 7 with left hip inflammation and had previously considered retiring during the season. ... Before Castro hit his 14th home run of the season, Houston catchers were tied with the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians for most homers by backstops in the American League with 17. The Houston club record is 22 set in 2000.
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