Cole Hamels had never hit more than two batters in a game. So suffice it to say, the Texas left-hander was off to a strange start when he plunked the first two Houston hitters Wednesday night.
With a little help from his defense and the Astros baserunners, Hamels overcame some early trouble, extending his career-best winning streak to 10 games and getting a two-run home run from Rougned Odor in the Rangers' 2-1 win over Houston.
"I don't think I've hit more than two guys in a game and I definitely just broke that record," said Hamels, who ended up hitting a career-high three batters, including Jose Altuve to start and end his outing. "But to lead off a game, it's not what you want to do."
After hitting the first two batters, Hamels (3-0) gave up three straight singles to start the second and surrendered a leadoff hit in the third. But the Astros couldn't score, helping the Texas ace by making an out on the bases in each inning.
"We talked about before the game where you've got to get to him early if you get a chance to," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "We did a really good job of creating havoc for him. We just didn't do anything with it."
Doug Fister (1-2) allowed Odor's second homer in the second inning as the Astros lost their ninth straight at the Rangers.
Hamels allowed rookie Tyler White's fifth home run in the sixth but combined with reliever Sam Dyson to strand the tying run at third with one out in the seventh.
Jake Diekman got called third strikes on Colby Rasmus and Evan Gattis with the tying run at second in the eighth, and closer Shawn Tolleson pitched the ninth for his fifth save.
Texas won its 14th straight with Hamels starting, its longest such streak since winning 14 straight with Bobby Witt in 1990. Hamels hasn't lost in the regular season since his second start for the Rangers after the trading deadline deal with Philadelphia last July.
"He's an ace for a reason," catcher Bryan Holaday said. "When his back's against the wall, he doesn't shy away from it."
In addition to three hit batters, Hamels walked three and gave up five hits with seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. But the Astros helped him survive.
White took a called third strike on a double steal in the first, and Holaday threw behind the lead runner to get George Springer easily at second.
With one out and the bases loaded in the second, Marwin Gonzalez flew out to right fielder Nomar Mazara, who threw home without a hop, forcing Rasmus to backtrack to third. Carlos Gomez was caught too far off first base, and Rasmus eventually was tagged out in a rundown.
"It looked like Gomez ran, he just ran everybody off the base," Hinch said. "He's very aggressive with the read, which is the right read as long as there's nobody on in front of him. It ended up being costly aggressiveness."
A First for Desmond
Altuve started the third with a sharp single down the line in left but was thrown out trying to go to second on the first career outfield assist for converted shortstop Ian Desmond, who got help on a diving tag by Odor.
"That's definitely an inning-changer right there where it keeps things in our favor," Texas manager Jeff Banister said.
Odor has six home runs and 24 RBIs in his career against Houston, the most for any opponent. ... Nomar Mazara was the first Texas player to reach base in the first eight games of his career, but the streak ended Wednesday night.
Rangers: RHP A.J. Griffin (1-0, 3.27) goes on seven days' rest in his first start for Texas at Globe Life Park and third overall. He allowed just two runs in 11 1/3 innings in two starts for Oakland at the home of the Rangers, but didn't get a decision in either one.
Astros: AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel (2-1, 2.18) has made 14 career starts against Texas, most of any opponent for the lefty. His four wins against the Rangers are tied for the most by a Houston pitcher with Collin McHugh, Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez.