HOUSTON -- An inning after benches and bullpens emptied and tempers flared following a pitch thrown by Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. behind the back of Rangers first baseman Mike Napoli, the Astros delivered the knockout blow by scoring five times in the seventh Monday night to beat the Rangers, 6-2, at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros, who had lost 28 of 38 meetings in the Lone Star Series the previous two years, produced their Major League-best 11th come-from-behind win this year. But Astros manager A.J. Hinch didn't want to make too much of the win.
"We really didn't need a defining moment," Hinch said. "We've been fighting for a month, we've been playing really well for a month, we didn't need to be woken up. We didn't need to stand up and fight for ourselves. We needed to play another good game and we did and we got another win."
George Springer had an RBI infield single to tie the game at 2 in the seventh,and Jose Altuve doubled to score Norichika Aoki to give the Astros the lead. A two-run double by Carlos Correa and RBI double by Yuli Gurriel allowed Houston to pull away and win the first meeting between the American League West rivals.
"That's all in the past now," said Houston closer Ken Giles, who got his seventh save. "This is new year. We're looking forward. Never going to look behind our backs and keep on competing."
Rangers starter Andrew Cashner held the Astros to one unearned run on two hits through six innings. But he walked Alex Bregman to leadoff the seventh -- the third straight inning he walked the leadoff batter -- and this one started the Astros' five-run rally.
"I felt good, my command was there," Cashner said. "The thing that got me was the leadoff walks. I was coming out of my delivery." McCullers struck out 10 batters in 6 1/3 nnings, but Chris Devenski got the win by retiring all five batters he faced.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Errant Elvis helps Astros: The Astros' seventh-inning rally began with a leadoff walk by Cashner to Bregman but an ensuing throwing error by Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus opened things up for Houston. Aoki hit a grounder to Andrus' right, and he made a wild throw to second to try to get Bregman on a force, allowing both runners to advance and eventually scored to put the Astros ahead.
"It was a good win," Hinch said. "We threw the ball well. Obviously, they came back a little bit at the end and we broke out finally in the seventh inning with a couple of bullets by Altuve and Correa -- middle of the order, what they're supposed to do in the big spots. But a really nice all-around win. Slow to warm up, but then a little adrenaline at some point." More >>
Napoli hits one out of sight: Napoli broke a tie in the fourth inning when he crushed a pitch from McCullers and sent it 427 feet to straight away center for his fourth homer, giving the Rangers a 2-1 lead. Astros center fielder George Springer lost the ball and had his hands up in the air in perplexity as the ball clanked off the outfield deck where fans are sitting. The homer had an exit velocity of 108 mph and traveled 427 feet, according to Statcast™.
"My timing was good today," Napoli said. "I took some positives out of this. I wish we could have come out on top, but I felt good at the plate."
"We're a family in here. Everyone has each other's back. This stuff happens all the time in baseball. That's part of it. We protect each other. It's part of the game." -- Napoli on the sixth-inning altercation
"A lot of emotion, that's how this team plays. When you spark the fire, you're going to get it from us. You're going to see a lot of enthusiasm and turn it up a notch and go beyond our limits." -- Giles
Rangers manager Jeff Banister unsuccessfully challenged a tag play at second base in the seventh inning when replay confirmed Gurriel avoided a tag sliding into second base for an RBI double.
WHAT'S NEXT Rangers: Left-hander Cole Hamels faces the Astros at 7:10 p.m. (CT) Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. Hamels has won his last two starts and is 6-3 with a 4.06 ERA in 14 career starts against the Astros..
Astros: Right-hander Mike Fiers (0-1, 5.12 ERA) will start for the Astros in Tuesday's 7:10 p.m. CT game against the Rangers at Minute Maid Park. Fiers went only 4 ⅓ innings in his last start Thursday in Cleveland, allowing two runs and five hits. He's 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA in his career against Texas.