ARLINGTON -- The Rangers built a four-run lead after two innings against Astros starter Scott Kazmir and held on for a 4-3 victory on Wednesday night at Globe Life Park. The win, Texas' seventh in its last eight games, secured a Lone Star Series sweep.
Rangers starter Nick Martinez, pitching on his 25th birthday, earned the win, allowing one run in five innings. He allowed just one hit, an RBI double by Jed Lowrie in the fourth, and walked three.
"I felt great," Martinez said. "We had a good game plan and we executed it. I got my pitch count up, but we were able to bring in reinforcements and get a big win."
The Rangers scored three runs in the first, all unearned thanks to errors by Kazmir and catcher Hank Conger. The first-place Astros now lead the Angels by two games and the Rangers by five in the American League West.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Texas 'pen hangs on: The Rangers' bullpen, leading 4-1, almost cratered in the sixth inning. With one out, right-hander Phil Klein gave up two walks and an RBI single to Evan Gattis. Sam Freeman took over and walked the next two hitters, forcing in another run. But Freeman struck out Luis Valbuena and Spencer Patton retired Jake Marisnick on a fly to center to escape with a 4-3 lead.
"We were just sitting in the dugout hoping we could get something hit right at somebody," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. More >
Clutch it eludes Astros: The Astros, who have lost 11 of 12 on the road, were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. They drew a season-high eight walks and had a batter reach on a hit by pitch, but the clutch hits eluded them once again.
"I'm proud of our guys," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We fought; we battled; we played hard; the effort's there. Even at the end and putting up a fight in the sixth inning and ninth innings. We didn't score enough runs."
Strausborger hits ground bunting: Outfielder Ryan Strausborger made his Major League debut, batting in the No. 2 spot, and had a big part in the Rangers' three-run first inning. After Delino DeShields reached on an error by Kazmir, Strausborger dropped a sacrifice bunt and was safe when Conger threw wildly to first base. That set the table for RBIs from Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus.
"I think the whole game starts in the first inning," Hinch said. "They had two singles, three runs, two errors, a walk. We just didn't get into the game."
Kazmir finally blinks: In his first two starts with the Astros, Kazmir pitched 14 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed only six hits. After giving up three unearned runs in the first inning in this one, Kazmir allowed a leadoff homer to Chris Gimenez in the second -- the only earned run he gave up in 5 2/3 innings. More >
"Gutsy baseball. It wasn't pretty. You don't typically win when you walk eight and hit one." -- Banister
"We obviously need to get out of town, get to a new series. We didn't play very well this series; they did. We need to get on with the schedule and wipe this one out of our memory quickly because we could play better." -- Hinch
WHAT'S NEXT Astros:Scott Feldman (4-5, 4.58 ERA) makes his fourth start since coming off disabled list following knee surgery when the Astros open a four-game series against the A's at 9:05 p.m. CT Thursday in Oakland. The Astros are 5-8 in his 13 starts, eight of which have been quality.
Rangers: The Rangers are off on Thursday before opening a three-game series against the Mariners at 9:10 p.m. CT on Friday at Safeco Field. Cole Hamels (6-7, 3.76), making his second start since being acquired from the Phillies, will try to end Texas' five-game losing streak against Seattle.