Five drives propel red-hot Rangers

Five drives propel red-hot Rangers

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers struck for six runs in the first inning off American League Cy Young candidate Dallas Keuchel and opened up a 1 1/2-game lead in the AL West with a 14-3 victory over the Astros on Wednesday night. The Rangers lead by two games in the all-important loss column.

Mike Napoli and Rougned Odor both hit home runs off Keuchel in the first inning, Prince Fielder followed up with two home runs of his own, Bobby Wilson hit his first of the season and the Rangers won their third straight over the Astros. Rangers starter Martin Perez earned the win by allowing one run in seven innings and snapping a two-game losing streak.

"It's a confidence-booster," Rangers outfielder Delino DeShields said. "We have been playing good against these guys all year. To come out like this, it says we're not going to lie down, we're here to the end, we're not going to make it easy."

Spark plug DeShields ignites Rangers' rally

Keuchel, who entered the game leading the AL with a 2.22 ERA, allowed nine runs on 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings. He had allowed a total of 10 earned runs over his previous seven starts, and his previous career high for one game was seven runs, allowed twice back in 2012. He also had a franchise-record streak of 40 straight starts of six innings or more come to an end.

"I felt like I had command of two of the four pitches, and I feel like any time I can go out and have command of two pitches, I feel like I'm going to at least give the team a chance to win," Keuchel said. "That just didn't happen today, and that's frustrating."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Left fielder delivers: Napoli started in left field and hit a three-run home run in the first to give the Rangers a four-run lead. In 28 games prior to Wednesday night, Rangers left fielders hit .149 with one home run and four RBIs. That home run was by Joey Gallo, on Sept. 8. Rangers left fielders entered the game with 50 RBIs, third fewest in the AL.

Rangers putting pedal to the metal

"As you watch the game, you saw some big hitters on a mission," manager Jeff Banister said. "But it goes back to having Napoli in there and how it stretches out our lineup."

Napoli's three-run jack

Keuchel endures career-worst night: Given a chance to pitch the Astros back into first place and perhaps lock up the Cy Young, Keuchel instead suffered the worst night of his career. He gave up a close infield hit to Delino DeShields to start the first and a bloop single to Shin-Soo Choo before retiring Adrian Beltre. But things quickly went downhill, as the Rangers scored six runs off him in the frame -- more than he had given up in a game this season.

"He elevated his fastball a little bit, maybe," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "In a tough environment to pitch in, he's obviously a strike-thrower, so guys are starting to go up and swing the bats pretty aggressively. If they see any ball up, they're going to try to attack pretty deep into the park. The only way to beat Dallas is to get after him. He counters with a sinker, he counters with a change. I'll look forward to having him on the mound in five days." More >

Keuchel fans Wilson

Fielder goes deep: Fielder hit a solo home run in the third and a three-run shot in the sixth, giving him 21 for the season. It was his second multihomer game of the season and 27th of his career, tying him for eighth among active players. Fielder has three home runs in the past three games. Prior to that he had just four in his previous 54 games. He now has 29 career home runs against the Astros, passing the Pirates for his most against any opponent.

Justice: Prince providing crucial boost

"We talked about the big man in the middle and how he was close," Banister said. "He wasn't close tonight, he was a man on a mission, getting out front and showing what he can be in that batter's box for us."

Must C: Fielder goes yard twice

QUOTABLE
"We're a good team. We've been a good team all year. There's a reason we've been hanging around here with the lead for the better part of this year. We'll be a good team again by the end of the year." -- Hinch

WHAT'S NEXT
Astros: Rookie right-hander Lance McCullers will try to stop the Astros' slide in Thursday's 7:05 p.m. CT series finale at Globe Life Park. McCullers hasn't won since July 29, going 0-2 with a 4.97 ERA in his last five starts.

Rangers: Right-hander Colby Lewis closes out the four-game series against the Astros at 7:05 p.m. CT on Thursday. Lewis pitched a two-hit shutout in his most recent start, snapping a three-game losing streak. He is 3-0 with a 4.40 ERA in four starts.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. 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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.