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Astros Surrender Late Lead. Rangers Take Game 1 in Arlington 5-3

Hector Neris meltdown in the eighth inning the difference.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros’ league-leading bullpen failed to hold tonight, allowing the Rangers to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 win. But three runs seldom win games, as the Astros could muster only seven hits and scored no runs after the second inning.

The Astros took an early lead when Jose Altuve led off the game with a double followed three batters later by a Yordan Alvarez RBI single.

The Astros added two more runs in the second starting with a Jeremy Pena double, who scored on a Mauricio Dubon. Dubon stole second and scored on a Michael Brantley single.

The Rangers managed to cut the score in half in the third but the Astros were lucky the Rangers didn’t score more. The Rangers opened with three straight singles, none well hit, which brought Astros killer Adolis Garcia to the plate with no outs. Javier struck out Garcia but allowed Cole Calhoun to score a run on a flyout to right field. The inning ended with no further damage when Jonah Helm popped out.

The Astros came about an inch from breaking the game open when Yordan Alvarez hit a moonshot at 44 degrees launch angle just over the fence in right field with Alex Bregman on first. But Adolis Garcia caught the ball about a foot over the fence, robbing the Astros of two runs.

The Rangers cut the lead to one in the seventh after Javier walked his first batter, forcing his exit in favor of Ryne Stanek. Stanek allowed two singles, the second a single by Garcia again scored Brad Miller

The Rangers took the lead in the eighth inning again with the help of some weakly hit singles and old-school baserunning. The inning started with a Javier walk, which ended his night bringing on Hector Neris. Pinch-runner Charlie Culberson stole second and took third on a Nathaniel Lowe groundout.

Culberson scored on a single by Ezequiel Duran just past the drawn-in Jeremy Pena. Duran stole second and then occupied third after a Neris wild pitch and scored on a Brad Miller weak ground ball single against the shift into shallow left field.

After Neris walked Leody Taveras, Neris was replaced in favor of Phil Maton, who allowed a single to Marcus Semien to load the bases. Miller scored the Rangers’ fifth run on a Corey Seager groundout to Altuve, which, if he hadn’t bobbled the transfer from glove to hand, would have been an inning-ending double play with no run scored.

But the extra run made no difference, as the Astros went down quietly in the ninth to hand the Rangers their 5-3 win.

Astros starter Cristian Javier had an excellent bounce-back start, going six innings, allowing two runs on five hits, and three walks, while whiffing seven.

Ryne Stanek held Javier’s lead in the seventh although he allowed the one inherited runner to score. But Hector Neris allowed four baserunners while recording only one out, making him the losing pitcher and recording his first blown save of the year.

Yordan Alvarez stayed hot with two singles, and his two outs were on batted balls that traveled 106.3 and 109.2 MPH.

As the season slides past the one-third mark a disturbing trend that has hurt the Astros all season continued tonight: lack of production from third and first base. Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel were a combined 0 -7, stranding a combined five runners on base.

Well, one really cool thing happened for the Astros tonight. Check out this play by catcher Martin Maldonado.

Tomorrow is a new day. The Astros and Rangers go at it again in Arlington. Jose Urquidy takes on Dane Dunning at 7:05 CT

Box score and videos HERE