ARLINGTON, Texas — Cole Hamels was smiling while rubbing his numb left leg. The Texas Rangers ace then adjusted to finish off seven scoreless innings.
Hamels kept pitching after a comebacker ricocheted off the side of his knee and into foul territory for Houston’s first hit in the fourth, and Texas held on for a 6-4 victory Friday night over the team with the AL’s best record.
"For him to continue to grind through it in the last couple of innings, it was huge for us," manager Jeff Banister said.
Six days after the lefty’s complete game in Minnesota, Hamels (7-1) limited the Astros to three singles. Two of those were infield hits, including that comebacker by Jose Altuve.
"Obviously, I’m not the biggest, most muscular guy, but when you get hit in the leg, there’s not a lot of muscle down there," Hamels said. "When that happens, you kind of get that numbing sensation and you just have to kind of walk it off. … It’s just a matter of time and getting that feeling back. Just keep plugging away like I did."
Houston, which lost its fourth straight game, got all its runs off two Texas relievers, though Alex Claudio got out of a jam in the ninth. Altuve, whose .363 average leads the majors, took an offspeed pitch for a called third strike with two men on to end the game.
The Astros (71-44), despite losing 10 of their last 13 games, still have a six-game lead over Boston for the American League’s top mark.
Elvis Andrus scored each time after his three hits, and drove in the first run of the game with his single in the third. Texas had loaded the bases with no outs when Charlie Morton (9-5) had a fielding error on a sacrifice bunt, and went on to score four times.
"That was a rough one," Morton said. "The leadoff walk, and then my error, it was just not very good."
Andrus led off the fifth with a single and scored on a double by Adrian Beltre, his second hit of the game and 3,010th of his career. Andrus doubled and scored on Nomar Mazara’s single in the seventh to make it 6-0.
Hamels struck out five and walked two, improving to 29-7 in his 58 starts with the Rangers since being traded from Philadelphia two years ago. He is 5-0 with a 2.66 ERA in seven home starts this season, when he missed nearly two months with a right oblique strain.
Reliever Jose Leclerc walked the No. 9 hitter leading off the eighth before George Springer’s 28th homer. After a double-play grounder and a walk, Claudio took over and gave up consecutive RBI doubles before right fielder Mazara’s shoestring catch of Brian McCann’s liner to end the inning.
The Rangers stuck with Claudio after Houston had consecutive two-out singles in the ninth to bring up Altuve.
"He’s got a good changeup. It’s a little bit like a breaking ball. Bottom of the zone tough pitch. It was tough on all of our guys," manager A.J. Hinch said. "We swung through a couple of those. … Getting Altuve to the plate was all you could ask for."
UP THE CHARTS
Beltre matched Paul Waner, who played in the majors from 1926-45, for 14th on the career doubles list with 606. Beltre’s 1,099 extra-bases hits are tied with Eddie Murray for 19th on that list, and his 3,010 hits are even with Wade Boggs for 28th.
Astros: Hinch said RHP Lance McCullers Jr., out since July 31 because of a back issue, is throwing long toss and has no physical issues playing catch. He isn’t throwing off a mound yet. … C Evan Gattis isn’t in Arlington even though he is eligible to be activated Saturday from the 7-day concussion list. Gattis hasn’t resumed baseball activities.
Rangers: Reliever Keone Kela will be re-assessed by doctors before the team decides his next step. He has been on the disabled list a week with a recurrence of right shoulder soreness after also being on the DL last month.
Astros: RHP Mike Fiers makes his team-high 23rd start, but is 0-2 with a 7.16 ERA in his last three starts. He struck out nine against Texas on May 2, but allowed four homers in six innings and got a no-decision.
Rangers: RHP Tyson Ross (2-2, 7.52) is expected to be activated from the DL to make his first start since July 23. He made two rehab starts at Double-A Frisco after a blister on his right index finger.