The Texas Rangers put on quite the power display Friday night against the Houston Astros.
Nelson Cruz hit a monstrous home run to tie the score in the sixth inning, Jeff Baker's shot put the Rangers ahead in the next inning and David Murphy added one in the ninth as Texas beat Houston 4-2.
Three relievers threw 3 1-3 perfect innings to help the Rangers get the win.
Baker greeted Wesley Wright (0-1) with a leadoff home run to right field in the seventh to give the Rangers, who entered the game last in the American League with 14 home runs on the road, their first lead of the night at 3-2.
"Any time you can contribute, it is awesome," Baker said. "Especially when you are in the utility role, and you are trying to make the most of your opportunities, getting a big hit. Getting the series started with a win is obviously huge for us."
Murphy's shot leading off the ninth inning against Travis Blackley extended the Rangers' lead and traveled 411 feet.
Cruz tied the score at 2-2 with a big solo home run to left field in the sixth off Houston starter Dallas Keuchel. The 416-foot shot bounced off the glass facade above the railroad tracks for Cruz's eighth homer of the season.
It ended a 0 for 12 skid for Cruz, who has tied games with four of his long balls this year.
"That one Cruz got was huge to get us back in the ballgame right there after they stole a run from us," Washington said. "And then Baker gets us the lead run and Murphy a little bit of insurance. It was all needed."
Robbie Ross (1-0) pitched 1 1-3 perfect innings before Tanner Scheppers pitched the eighth and Joe Nathan the ninth for his 10th save of the season.
"The bullpen was outstanding," Washington said. "For Robbie to come in and get us 1 1-3 innings and then Schep came in and had a good breaking ball tonight to go with that live fastball that he has. And then Joe did the rest. It was solid."
Nathan said the bullpen is in a pretty good rhythm.
"The young guys who were question marks coming into the year are throwing the ball great," Nathan said. "Obviously, we are passing the ball along pretty good. We are in a rhythm. We have good confidence down there. We are just trying to throw as many quality pitches as we can and get outs. We know coming out of the `pen, we got to be aggressive, throw strikes and get outs for us. Fortunately, it has gone well."
Trevor Crowe put the Astros in front 1-0 in the second with a solo home run to left field off Alexi Ogando.
The home run was Crowe's first in 234 at-bats since July 23, 2010, when he was with the Indians.
Elvis Andrus tied it at 1-1 in the third with a bases-loaded walk. The Rangers loaded the bases with one out on a walk by Geovany Soto and singles by Craig Gentry and Ian Kinsler. Following Andrus' walk, Keuchel struck out Lance Berkman and got Adrian Beltre to fly out to center to end the inning.
Houston responded with a run of its own in the bottom of the inning as Jose Altuve doubled with one out, advanced to third on Jason Castro's groundout and scored on Ogando's wild pitch to make it 2-1.
"That was a great reaction," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "He broke the minute the ball broke down. That was great anticipation by Altuve, and a good heads up play."
Ogando was rocky in the first, loading the bases on a walk to Chris Carter with two outs before inducing a flyout to center by Carlos Pena to end the inning.
Keuchel, making his first start of the season after appearing in six games this season out of the bullpen, allowed two runs on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts in six innings.
Keuchel said he felt good on the mound and felt he could have gone longer.
"Before the game I told some of the guys that, since I went to the bullpen and then had that one start down in Triple A, my body has been responding well," Keuchel said. "Even though I got a little hot early, I was able to settle in a little bit."
Ogando went 5 2-3 innings, allowing two runs and five hits with three strikeouts and a season-high four walks.
NOTES: Texas C A.J. Pierzynski was placed on the disabled list Friday, retroactive to May 6 with a right oblique strain. C Robinson Chirinos was recalled from Triple A Round Rock Friday to take Pierzynski's place on the roster. ... Houston RHP Josh Fields, who has been on the disabled list since April 4 with a strained right forearm, began a rehab assignment Friday with Class A Quad Cities. ... Rangers RHP Yu Darvish, who is 5-1 with a 2.56 ERA, will take the mound Saturday for the first time against Houston since he threw 8 2-3 perfect innings against the Astros on April 2. Houston will counter with LHP Erik Bedard, who is 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA.
Copyright Associated Press