ARLINGTON, Texas — The Houston Astros scratched and clawed for just 18 runs in six games before beginning a three-game series with the Texas Rangers.
Over the first two games at Globe Life Park, both Houston victories, the Astros’ offense suddenly became prolific, producing 20 runs on 29 hits.
Designated hitter Chris Carter hit home runs in consecutive at-bats, and the Astros topped the Rangers 8-3 Tuesday.
Center fielder George Springer added a 430-foot home run as part of the Astros’ 12 hits.
The victory puts Houston (38-54) one game back of Texas (38-52) in the battle to avoid last place in the American League West.
The Rangers lost for the ninth time in 10 games and the 17th time in 20.
Houston right-hander Brad Peacock (3-5) won for the third time in his past eight starts, giving up two runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out five without issuing a walk.
“We came in scuffling offensively, and the way we swung the bats the last two
days is very encouraging,” Houston manager Bo Porter said.
Houston led 3-2 before Carter hit a solo homer in the sixth.
“He hits them in bunches,” Porter said. “Let’s hope this is one of those bunches that we can ride out. He can carry a team when he’s right.
“The add-on runs have been huge. The ability to respond when they respond gives us extra cushion.”
The Astros scored a run on an error in the seventh before a three-run eighth put the game out of reach.
Carter, who is hitting .368 with four home runs and seven RBIs in his past six games, led off the eighth inning with his second homer of the game — his 17th of the season. Later in the inning, Houston got an RBI single from shortstop Marwin Gonzalez and a sacrifice fly from second baseman Jose Altuve.
Altuve finished 2-for-3 with a walk, an RBI and two steals. He recorded his 28th consecutive successful stolen-base attempt, tying Carlos Beltran’s franchise record set in 2004.
Texas right-hander Phil Irwin (0-1) lost in his season debut. Irwin, the Rangers’ 12th starting pitcher this season, gave up three runs on six hits in four-plus innings. He struck out two and walked two.
As a team, Texas has a 7.68 ERA over its past nine games.
“I think he was a little nervous in the beginning,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “He settled down. When you go throw the ball over the plate, they hit it.
“It’s always a challenge when your starters don’t give you the innings you need.”
Texas used four relievers, including Roman Mendez, who pitched two scoreless innings in his major league debut.
Mendez was the 27th pitcher used by the Rangers this season.
Texas center fielder Leonys Martin went 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs. Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a triple.
The Rangers committed two errors.
The Astros scored twice in a wild first inning that included a wild pitch, a hit batter and a runner advancing to first on an unusual play.
With Altuve on second with no outs, Houston’s second hitter, right fielder Robbie Grossman, struck out on a ball that hit the dirt. Rangers catcher Chris Gimenez gathered the ball cleanly, then composed himself while looking Altuve back to second. However, he held the ball too long, and Grossman easily beat his throw to first.
First baseman Jon Singleton and third baseman Matt Dominguez followed with run-scoring singles.
“I give Robbie Grossman great credit,” Porter said. “He busted it down the line. And (Altuve) changes the game whenever he’s on base.”
Irwin said, “I need to just trust myself, don’t feel like I have to do more than I can. Like the first inning, I tried to throw it past people, throw it hard, and that’s not my game. Need to locate and change speeds.”
Martin hit a solo home run in the second.
Beltre, who tripled to lead off the fourth, scored a batter later on Martin’s sacrifice fly, leveling the game at 2-2.