By Anthony Andro, The Sports Xchange
ARLINGTON, Texas — Things are going so well for the Houston Astros right now that they’re making things look easy even in places where they’ve had no success.
Houston ran its winning streak to eight games behind the pitching of Dallas Keuchel and three-run homers from Carlos Correa and George Springer as they ripped the Texas Rangers 7-1 on Friday night.
Houston had won just two of its last 17 games in Arlington. That didn’t matter Friday as they now have their longest winning streak since 2015 and are 23 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2001 season.
The defending American League West champion Rangers now trail Houston by 13 games.
Keuchel (9-0) struck out seven didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning and that came on a two-out double by Adrian Beltre on a blooper that right fielder Josh Reddick overran. With the win, Keuchel became just the second starting pitcher in club history to start the season 9-0. Roger Clemens did it in 2004 on his way to the Cy Young Award.
Houston gave Keuchel all the support he’d need in the fifth inning when they strung together a two-out rally against Texas ace Yu Darvish (5-4).
Reddick singled and Jose Altuve followed that with a double to put runners on second and third. Correa then extended his hitting streak to eight games by launching a three-run homer to left-center to put Houston up 3-0.
“We put some pressure on Darvish from the beginning,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “We had guys on base the first five innings, we put some pressure on him with our legs. We fouled pitches off and we built up his pitch count. We had opportunities that we created for ourselves. Correa got the lesser end of those two battles (striking out in his first two-at bats), and then the third time’s a charm. He came up big with a really big game-changing hit.”
Those would be the only runs Darvish gave up, but he threw 104 pitches in five innings. He surrendered seven hits and struck out eight.
“That lineup is very aggressive, swinging from the first pitch,” Darvish said. “Today it (was) almost like after two strikes, they were trying to battle, fight it off, fight it off, fight it off. That got my pitch count up in the game and it just cost me.”
The Rangers threatened against Keuchel in the sixth, loading the bases with two outs. But Keuchel got Rougned Odor to ground out to first to end the inning and his night.
He also realized how important it was winning in Arlington even though the team is going so well right now.
“We really haven’t had much success (here), but 2017 is a whole new year and it just seems like we turned a corner,” Keuchel said. “I’m sure they’re feeling like we were the past couple years at this point. Searching for answers, searching for anything. It’s not a good feeling. But the law of averages is bound to turn around so we’ve been playing really good ball and it’s something to build on.”
The Astros blew the game open in the eighth on an RBI double from Yuli Gurriel and a three-run blast to center from Springer.
The Rangers avoided the shutout in the ninth on a solo homer from Beltre, who had two of the four Texas hits.
“We knew we were going to have our hands full but we still believe we can find a way to win the series and we need to figure out how to be more consistent overall,” Beltre said. “We have to find a way to get everybody involved.”
Houston finished with nine hits as Altuve and Springer each had a pair. The Rangers went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position and left six runners on base. Texas got just three balls out of the infield in the first five innings and struck out 10 times.