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Altuve homers off Eovaldi in first 2 at-bats to lead Astros over Rangers 8-5

HOUSTON (AP) — Jose Altuve homered off Nathan Eovaldi in his first two at-bats and Cristian Javier pitched seven strong innings to lead the Houston Astros to an 8-5 win over the Texas Rangers on Sunday.

After dropping the series opener 12-8, the Astros have won back-to-back games following a 4-11 start that left them seven games under .500 for the first time since 2016. They improved to 4-3 against AL West rival Texas this season.

Javier (2-0) allowed five hits and two runs with five strikeouts to give Houston a second straight solid pitching performance after dismal outings by its starters in the previous three games.

Marcus Semien hit a three-run homer off Seth Martinez with two outs in the ninth to cut the lead to 8-5. Josh Hader struck out Corey Seager to end it.

It was the 11th multi-homer game for Altuve, and his seven career home runs off Eovaldi are his most against any pitcher.

“He’s that kind of guy that it doesn’t matter what you do, you don’t really want to face him very often,” Altuve said. “He’s great. That’s why he’s one of the best guys out there. So today you might hit a homer but the next game he might strike you out three times. With him you never know.”

Altuve sent Eovaldi’s third pitch off the foul pole in left field for his 36th career leadoff homer, which ranks third in franchise history.

There was one out in the third when Altuve connected again, sending a fastball into the seats in left to make it 2-0. Eovaldi slumped his shoulders and shouted something as the ball sailed away. Altuve grinned as he rounded the bases and flexed both biceps as he reached the end of the dugout.

“Every time you do something to help your team, especially with the situation we were in a few days ago, it feels good,” Altuve said. “We're trying to click as a team, flip things around, start winning, and it’s always good to do stuff like that.”

Altuve also singled in his second consecutive game with three hits. He's reached base safely in all 17 games to start the season.

“It’s impressive how he’s able to get barrel to some tough pitches,” Houston manager Joe Espada said. “When the pitcher thinks that he’s executed a pitch, Altuve is getting the barrel and hitting the ball out of the ballpark, getting singles. Pretty impressive what he does.”

Eovaldi (1-1) yielded eight hits and five runs in six innings.

“Overall, I felt really good today,” he said. “I made some really good pitches and they had good at-bats and I felt like they hit tough pitches.”

Evan Carter hit a solo homer and Semien added an RBI double for the World Series champion Rangers, who have dropped three of four.

Carter got his team’s first hit with his home run to right-center with one out in the fourth that cut the lead to 2-1.

Chas McCormick and Jeremy Peña singled to start the Houston fourth before an RBI double by Victor Caratini made it 3-1. There were two outs in the inning when a double by Mauricio Dubón scored two more to extend the lead to 5-1.

Leody Taveras doubled with one out in the fifth before scoring on the double by Semien to get Texas to 5-2.

McCormick drove in two runs with a double in Houston's three-run seventh that pushed the lead to 8-2.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rangers: Placed LHP Cody Bradford on the 15-day injured list, retroactive to Thursday, with a low back strain. RHP Cole Winn was called up from Triple-A Round Rock.

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (right shoulder inflammation) allowed seven hits and six runs — five earned — in four innings of a rehabilitation start for Double-A Corpus Christi on Saturday night. Espada said the team will see how Verlander feels Monday before deciding the next step for the three-time Cy Young Award winner. … LHP Framber Valdez (left elbow inflammation) said he’s feeling much better and plans to start playing catch Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Rangers: Had not yet announced a starting pitcher for the opener of a four-game series Monday night at Detroit.

Astros: RHP Spencer Arrighetti (0-1, 21.00 ERA) will make his second major league start Monday night in the opener of a three-game series against Atlanta.

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