ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers need to pile up wins if they hope to corral an American League wild-card berth, so playing the worst team in baseball couldn't come at a better time.
Adrian Beltre's home run in the sixth proved the difference in Texas' 3-2 win Tuesday night over the Houston Astros at Rangers Ballpark.
The Rangers (86-71) have won two straight and are trailing Cleveland (87-70) by one game for the second wild-card spot with five games left. Tampa Bay (88-69) is the leader.
"Huge win, especially when we saw that Cleveland won in a walk-off and Tampa Bay won," said Texas reliever Joe Nathan, who worked the ninth to earn his 41st save. "It was important to keep pace."
Texas is 16-2 against Houston, its in-state rival, this season; the series ends Wednesday night.
One night after a 12-0 shutout, the Rangers were in a dogfight Tuesday.
"The effort is clearly going to be there from these guys," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "They were up for the challenge."
Houston (51-107) led on two occasions and chased Texas starter Yu Darvish in the sixth inning. After flirting with no-hitters twice against Houston this season, Darvish couldn't find a consistent groove. He struck out nine but didn't earn a decision.
Darvish, though, was just happy Texas won. The Rangers' two-game winning streak is their longest in late August.
"Not just winning two in a row, just winning the game was important," Darvish said.
Matt Dominguez knotted the game 2-2 in the sixth, taking a Darvish offering off the foul pole in left. Darvish was done later in the inning after issuing his fourth free pass.
Darvish has failed to pitch at least six innings five times this season. Three have come in September.
Beltre gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead with a solo shot in the sixth off Brad Peacock, who fell to 5-6. It was Beltre's first homer since Aug. 28 and first in Arlington in more than a month.
"I thought Peacock threw the baseball outstanding," Porter said. "He did a great job just attacking these guys, even on the home run ball to Beltre."
The Rangers used five pitchers in an outing Texas manager Ron Washington treated like a playoff game. Neal Cotts (6-3) picked up the win pitching a scoreless inning in relief.
"The way the game was going, we knew it was going to be a nail-biter," Washington said.
The Astros struck first as Darvish struggled with his command early. Texas' ace walked two in the first inning, and Houston took a 1-0 lead on Chris Carter's sacrifice fly.
Darvish settled down and had eight strikeouts through five innings.
Peacock held the Rangers scoreless through three innings, but Texas took the lead with runs in the fourth and fifth.
With two outs in the fourth, Geovany Soto singled down the right-field line to score Beltre from second to tie the game. Ian Kinsler's single in the fifth scored Craig Gentry for a 2-1 lead.
NOTES: Washington takes exception to Soto being labeled Darvish's personal catcher, but Soto has caught Darvish four straight times. Soto has also caught Darvish in every game since Darvish exchanged words on the mound with usual starting catcher A.J. Pierzynski. ... Darvish surpassed 200 innings this season by getting through the second. As a rookie last year, he pitched 191 1/3 innings. LHP Derek Holland went over 200 innings for the first time in his career Monday. ... Going into Tuesday, Houston's four rookie starters -- Peacock, RHP Jarred Cosart, RHP Paul Clemens and LHP Brett Oberholtzer -- had a combined ERA of 2.69 in 31 starts since July 12.