Prince pulls Rangers closer to the top

Prince pulls Rangers closer to the top

ARLINGTON -- Prince Fielder hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning, giving the Rangers a 5-3 victory over the Astros in the opener of their four-game series on Monday night. The victory moved the Rangers to within a half-game of the Astros in the American League West, and the two teams are tied in the loss column.

"That was a big win," Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland said. "The team in front of us, first game of a series, to get the momentum going in our favor, that was a good first one."

The score was tied at 3 when Adrian Beltre singled off reliever Will Harris with one out in the eighth. Fielder then worked the count full before blasting a cut fastball over the center-field fence and just beyond the leaping reach of Jake Marisnick.

Rangers energized following win over Astros

"I knew I hit it good, but here you never know," Fielder said. "The wind plays tricks on you sometimes. I knew I had hit it hard enough, but the way [Marisnick] was going back on it, I didn't know if he was going to rob it or not."

Both Rangers starter Cole Hamels and Scott Kazmir of the Astros allowed three runs over seven innings. Rangers reliever Keone Kela earned the victory in relief, with Shawn Tolleson closing it out in the ninth for his 32nd save.

"We've got to play good baseball," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "This is nothing about the lead [in the division]. We've got to play a little bit better and be able to scratch over some runs that we didn't. We made a few mistakes, and they capitalized."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Balk costs Hamels: An unusual balk cost Hamels after a one-out double by Marisnick in the fifth. The Rangers thought Marisnick missed first base on the play, so after time was called, Hamels tried to appeal and threw to first. But a balk was called, allowing Marisnick to go to third. The Rangers, with one out, moved the infield in, and George Springer hit a sharp grounder to the right side. Moreland made a diving stop to his left but double-clutched before throwing home, and Marisnick slid in safely. More >

Hamels balks on appeal

Villar, Rasmus with clutch at-bats: The Astros made Hamels work in the seventh inning. With a runner at first and two outs, Jonathan Villar walked to cap an eight-pitch at-bat, then Colby Rasmus battled Hamels for seven pitches before ripping an RBI single off Moreland's glove to tie the score at 3. Hamels was upset that he didn't get a 3-2 pitch called on a two-out walk to Villar, and he also thought a 2-2 pitch to Rasmus could have been an inning-ending third strike.

Rasmus' game-tying single

Moreland takes Kazmir deep: Rangers manager Jeff Banister wanted Mike Napoli's right-handed bat in the lineup, so he started him in left field. That allowed Moreland to stay in the lineup at first base, otherwise he would have sat with a left-hander on the mound. Napoli dropped a fly ball -- the only one hit to him -- but it didn't cost the Rangers a run. Moreland, on the other hand, smashed a two-run home run off Kazmir in the bottom of the sixth to give the Rangers a one-run lead. It was just his fourth home run in 120 at-bats against a left-hander.

"I thought Mitch's at-bat, the homer to the opposite field, I thought that right there was the biggest at-bat of the game," Fielder said. "Because to do that off that guy, clearly that guy has been excellent all year, so for a lefty to go oppo on him is impressive. That right there is the at-bat of the game."

Moreland's two-run homer

Harris gives up another homer: Harris, who's arguably been the Astros' best reliever this season, gave up his second game-winning homer in three games when Fielder took him deep in the eighth inning to break a 3-3 tie with a two-run shot. Hinch opted to have Harris, a right-hander, face the left-handed-hitting Fielder, who has hit right-handers much better in his career.

"I knew he hit it pretty well," Harris said. "He's a big, strong guy, so when he gets a fastball middle of the plate and puts a barrel on it, you're not going to get too many of those balls back." More >

QUOTABLE
"You can come at me with that one. I put him out there. We wanted that bat in there against the left-hander. It's important to us. We'll continue to work on it. He'll get better." -- Banister, on Napoli dropping a fly ball in his second game in left field

"Our team is ready to play. We're fine. We're playing really close games. We've got a couple of losses this week. We're not spooked. We're a Major League baseball team, and we'll show up tomorrow ready to play." -- Hinch

WHAT'S NEXT
Astros: Right-hander Collin McHugh will be looking to win his fourth consecutive start when the Astros face the Rangers at 7:05 p.m. CT on Tuesday. McHugh has been terrific in the season's second half, going 7-2 with a 2.80 ERA in his last 10 starts since July 17. His 27 wins since the start of 2014 are tied for 11th in the big leagues.

Rangers: Left-hander Derek Holland pitches against the Astros at 7:05 p.m. CT on Tuesday in his seventh start since being activated off the disabled list. Holland is 3-2 with a 3.64 ERA in eight career starts against Houston.

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T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.