Trio of taters helps Rangers mash Astros

Cruz, Baker, Murphy give Texas three road homers for first time in '13

Trio of taters helps Rangers mash Astros

HOUSTON -- Rangers outfielder Jeff Baker had a pretty good guess on the difference between the ball he hit in the seventh inning and the one Nelson Cruz hit in the sixth on Friday night.

"Probably 150 feet, maybe 200," Baker said. "He's a strong dude. When he gets into one, it's usually not a wall-scraper."

Baker hit a ball that might be termed a "wall-scraper." But manager Ron Washington didn't see it that way after a 4-2 victory over the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

"They were both bombs," Washington said. "The one David Murphy hit was a bomb. As long as they go over the fence, they call them bombs."

They also call them home runs, and the Rangers haven't hit many on the road this season. They entered Friday's game with just 14 home runs in 19 away games, the fewest road bombs by an American League team this season.

But the Rangers no longer enjoy that unusual distinction after Cruz, Baker and Murphy all hit solo home runs to overcome the Astros' 2-1 lead with four innings to go. It's the first time this season the Rangers have hit at least three home runs in a game on the road. They've done it four times at home.

"It doesn't matter, we're still doing good on the road," Cruz said. "That's all we care about. We have a winning record on the road."

The Rangers are 11-9 on the road this season, including three of four over the Astros in Houston. The Rangers have also won 17 of the last 21 games played between the two. They have a record of 22-6 against Houston since the beginning of the 2009 season. That's a .786 winning percentage, the best by one Major League team over another with a minimum of 25 games played between the two.

But the Rangers trailed, 2-1, in this one going into the sixth inning as starter Alexi Ogando tried to stay with Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel. Ogando held Houston to two runs on five hits despite walking a season-high four batters. It's only the second time in 38 Major League starts that Ogando has walked that many in a game.

"I think overall I did a pretty good job. I just couldn't command some of my pitches," Ogando said.

Ogando gave up a home run to Trevor Crowe in the second, and another run scored in the third on a wild pitch. But the Astros managed just three singles over the final six innings against Ogando, relievers Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and closer Joe Nathan. Actually, Ogando gave up the three singles. The relievers retired 10 straight batters as Ross earned the victory and Nathan picked up his 10th save.

"The bullpen was outstanding," Washington said.

The Rangers had just four hits off Keuchel going into the sixth inning. Then Cruz crushed a 2-1 fastball to deep left with two outs, and the ball hit off the glass panels put in place when the roof is closed. Otherwise it would have sailed out into downtown Houston. The home run was measured at 416 feet, but only because the glass panels were in the way.

"I hit it pretty well," Cruz admitted.

Cruz has hit eight home runs this season, and four have either tied the game or put Texas within one run. In other words, they have come when the Rangers really needed them, and that was the case on Friday night.

"That one Cruz hit was huge," Washington said. "Once we tied the game, we just had to keep grinding and keep pitching. That's what we did."

Left-handed reliever Wesley Wright took over for Keuchel in the seventh, and Baker had never faced him before. Baker still swung at the first pitch and hit a high fly ball down the right-field line. Outfielder Jimmy Paredes tracked it to the wall and tried for a leaping catch, but the ball sailed just above his glove, giving the Rangers a 3-2 lead.

"It was a good pitch to hit," said Baker, who has four home runs in 36 at-bats this season. "I normally don't swing at the first pitch. But it was a good pitch, so I swung and let it go. I thought I had got enough of it until I saw him tracking the ball. Then I wasn't sure."

"You definitely don't want to come in walking guys," Wright said. "The pitch I threw maybe caught a little bit too much of the plate, maybe was a little up, but in that situation, you don't want to come falling behind and putting guys on and risk a big inning. At that point in the game, you hope a solo home run doesn't beat you, but tonight it did."

The Rangers still had one bomb to deliver after Murphy took over defensively for Baker in the bottom of the seventh. He came to bat in the top of the ninth and hit one into the home bullpen in right-center for the Rangers' third home run of the night.

"We needed them all," Washington said.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.