HOUSTON -- The Texas Rangers slugged three home runs, two from left fielders, and rode a dominating bullpen performance to a 4-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.
Jeff Baker, who went 0 for 2 against Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel, greeted left-handed reliever Wesley Wright (0-1) with an opposite-field home run to right field leading off the seventh inning.
His replacement a half-inning later, David Murphy, did the same to left-hander Travis Blackley in the ninth as the Rangers (22-13) defeated the Astros (10-26) for the seventh time in eight meetings.
After Robbie Ross (1-0) and Tanner Scheppers retired the seven batters they faced to close the sixth and complete the seventh and eighth, Texas closer Joe Nathan picked up his 10th save with a perfect ninth.
Keuchel made his first start of the season a memorable one, practically mimicking his major-league debut against the Rangers last season. On June 17, 2012, Keuchel limited Texas to one run and four hits in five innings, and his latest performance against the Rangers was nearly as good.
Keuchel allowed two runs in six innings, the only blemishes coming when he walked Elvis Andrus with the bases loaded in the third and surrendered a two-out solo home run to Nelson Cruz in the sixth. The 416-foot blast prevented Keuchel from departing with the lead. The homer tied the score at 2 and bumped his pitch count into the 80s.
Considering he pitched in relief just three days earlier, Keuchel wasn't in position to give much more. And because Rangers right-hander Alexi Ogando was as effective, Keuchel didn't have any wiggle room.
Ogando allowed runners in each of his five-plus innings but limited the damage by inducing a Carlos Pena flyout with the bases loaded in the first and fanning Trevor Crowe with two on in the third. Crowe hit a leadoff homer in the second to give Houston a 1-0 lead.
Ogando left with two outs in the sixth having surrendered two runs, five hits and four walks with three strikeouts. Keuchel threw 83 pitches compared with 102 for Ogando.
NOTES: Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos encountered travel snafus after his recall from Triple-A Round Rock. The Express were in Las Vegas and Chirinos had two separate flights to Houston cancelled, forcing him to fly to Dallas and drive with team personnel to Minute Maid Park. He arrived less than an hour before the first pitch. ... Astros right-hander Josh Field began a rehab assignment on Friday with Class A Quad Cities. Fields has been on the 15-day disabled list since April 4 with a right forearm strain.