The Houston Astros had to wait a little longer than usual to crank a home run Friday night against the Arlington Rangers. George Springer, who has nine career leadoff homers against the Rangers, started the game with a measly double. The wait didn’t last much longer than that. Jose Altuve followed with a two-run blast, his eighth of the season and seventh in the last nine games.
José Altuve has eight homers in 79 plate appearances. He didn’t hit his eighth HR last season until his 390th PA. In his MVP season in ‘17, he didn’t reach eight homers until his 237th PA.— Jake Kaplan (@jakemkaplan) April 20, 2019
On the very next pitch, Alex Bregman struck with his third longball of the season and the Astros went back-to-back for the first time in 2019.
That was more than enough offense for Justin Verlander, but the Astros tacked on anyway in a 7-2 thrashing of the Rangers — Houston’s 11th win in 12 games.
The Astros’ potent lineup made Drew Smyly work for every out. Smyly — who has averaged 22.6 pitches per inning, third-most in MLB entering the game — threw 32 pitches in the first inning alone. In all, Smyly tossed 102 pitches in just 3 2⁄3 innings as he took the loss and remained winless (0-2, 7.80) in 2019. Smyly did have eight strikeouts but surrendered four runs on five hits with three walks in his short, but second-longest outing of the season. Smyly allowed as many hard-hit balls with an exit velocity over 100mph as he had strikeouts.
Meanwhile, Verlander (3-0, 3.00) retired seven straight batters following a leadoff walk to Shin-Soo Choo and didn’t allow a hit through 3 2⁄3 innings. A solo shot by Danny Santana to start the bottom half of the sixth was all the offense the Rangers could muster off the Astros’ ace, who went seven innings and had eight strikeouts.
Robinson Chirinos made a heads-up play advancing on a two-out, two-strike pitch in the dirt that didn’t get far from Rangers’ catcher Jeff Mathis. Altuve hit a soft single over the shortstop later in that at-bat for his third RBI in two innings to give the Astros an early 4-0 lead.
Santana committed two errors on one play when Michael Brantley smacked a hard grounder to second base. Santana misplayed the hop, panicked, and threw the ball into the Rangers dugout to start the third inning. Brantley easily swiped third base with one out, his third steal of the season, but Tyler White and Chirinos struck out to leave him stranded.
The Astros opened the fifth inning with back-to-back doubles down the rightfield line by Brantley and Carlos Correa to increase their lead to 5-0. The hit marked Correa’s 18th straight game reaching base at Globe Life Park and set a new standard for consecutive games with a double in what will be the stadium’s farewell season.
Carlos Correa has doubled in 6 straight games at Globe Life Park, the longest streak in the history of the venue. #Astros— Chris Peixoto (@cp_astros) April 20, 2019
Yuli Gurriel made it three straight doubles off Jeanmar Gomez by bouncing a basehit down the line in left to make it 6-0. The Astros scored as many runs through 4+ innings as they did in the entire three-game set in Arlington earlier this month. Springer had another double, the Astros’ fourth of the inning and one that appeared it could have been a home run, to the opposite field to put Houston up by a touchdown, 7-0.
The Astros were much more adept hitting with runners in scoring position Friday night than they were earlier in April. Houston went 6-13 (.461) with runners in scoring position in the game after a 2-21 (.095) mark in their first series against the Rangers.
Chris Devenski tossed a 1-2-3 eighth inning against the top of the Rangers order. Reymin Guduan allowed a solo homer to Joey Gallo in the ninth before being relieved by Josh James, who got a double play to end the game.
The Astros have played particularly well on the road against the Rangers in recent years.
The bats lit up the ballpark tonight in Arlington. @Astros 15th win in last 18 at Rangers. Postgame show is coming up. KE— AT&T SportsNet SW (@ATTSportsNetSW) April 20, 2019
That’s pretty incredible, considering the Astros lost a series in Arlington earlier this month.
Of note, Altuve’s homer placed him in rare company, in terms of power from second baseman.
With his 1st-inning HR, Jose Altuve now has 8 homers in the @astros' 19 games this year.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) April 20, 2019
That ties the most HR in MLB history by a 2nd baseman over his team's first 19 games of a season, matching Jeff Kent (1994 NYM), Chase Utley (2008 Phi) & Neil Walker (2016 NYM).#TakeItBack
Gurriel took two walks to give him seven on of the year, nearly one-third of his total (23) a season ago. Smyly lasted only three innings and threw 73 pitches in the Rangers’ 2-1 loss in their home opener against the Astros on April Fool’s Day.
Box score and videos here.
The Astros face the Rangers again tomorrow night at 7 p.m. (CT), with Gerrit Cole (1-2, 3.24) opposing Adrian Sampson (0-1, 5.93).