The Texas Rangers have cooled off, losing to the Houston Astros 5-2 in the final game of a four-game series at Minute Maid Park on Sunday.
The Rangers (18-22) entered the series having won four straight games. Texas also came into Sunday with a 12-7 record in their last 19 games, which was tied for the fifth-best record in Major League Baseball in that span.
The Rangers lost three of four to the Astros (27-15), even though the pitching staff, overall, threw well the entire series. But the Rangers' bats weren't able to generate much offense.
The Rangers did make things interesting in ninth. With the Astros up 5-1, reliever Blake Taylor surrendered a single to Kole Calhoun and hit Mitch Garver with a pitch. After striking out Nathaniel Lowe, Astros manager Dusty Baker pulled Taylor for closer Ryan Pressly. He gave up a single to Sam Huff to load the bases. Brad Miller then singled to left, scoring Calhoun to make it 5-2.
The Rangers used Jonah Heim as a pinch hitter, but he grounded into a double play to end the game.
For the series, Texas scored four runs in its three losses and scored three runs in Martín Pérez’s complete-game shutout win Friday.
The Rangers had nine hits (three in the ninth), stranded eight runners and went 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
Taylor Hearn (2-3) was unable to get out of the fifth inning for the second straight start and took the loss for Texas. Jose Urquidy (4-1) won for Houston. Pressly ended up with his sixth save.
The Astros grabbed the lead in the first inning on a leadoff home run by Jose Altuve, his fifth leadoff homer of the season.
Post-Game Notes: Nationals 2, Rangers 1
Here are the post-game notes from the Texas Rangers' loss to the Washington Nationals on Friday night
Rangers Lose to Nationals in Series Opener
Texas and Washington play a close game decided with an RBI double in the eighth inning
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The Astros added to the lead in the third. Altuve doubled with one out, followed by a Brantley walk. Alex Bregman doubled down the left-field line, but the ball caromed off the ball and hit a ball boy, keeping it near the wall and forcing Rangers left fielder Eli White to run all the way over to retrieve it. Altuve scored to make it 2-0.
Hearn and the Rangers escaped more trouble. Yordan Alvarez hit a fielder’s choice to Rangers second baseman Marcus Semien, who threw out Brantley at home. Yuli Gurriel flew out to Calhoun in right field to end the inning.
The Rangers finally cracked Urquidy in the fifth with Garver’s leadoff home run. After Lowe grounded out, Huff singled and Miller reached on a bunt that moved Huff to second. With a chance to tie, or even take the lead, White struck out and Semien flew out to center.
The Astros took back their two-run edge in the bottom half of the fifth on a Alvarez double to deep right-center field, which scored Bregman. That made it 3-1 Astros and led to the Rangers pulling Hearn. Gurriel then snapped an 0-for-11 streak with a double off Rangers reliever Brett Martin to score Alvarez and make it 4-1.
The Astros added another run in the bottom of the eighth on Jeremy Peña’s RBI single to right, scoring Kyle Tucker.
The Rangers head to the west coast, with an off-day on Monday before starting a two-game set with the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday. Dane Dunning is the scheduled starting pitcher for the Rangers. A four-game set at Oakland follows before Texas returns home to start a four-game set with Tampa Bay.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard