HOUSTON – Marcus Semien hit a grand slam to cap a six-run seventh inning as the Texas Rangers beat the Astros 9-1 on Sunday night for their first series win at Houston in nearly five years.
The Rangers, who took two of three from the World Series champions, last won a series in Houston in July 2018 when Texas swept the Astros. Since that series, Texas had lost 10 straight series in Houston.
“This is a division series,” Semien said. “All of them count whether it’s the best team or the worst. All of them count in the division, and our goal is to win the division, so we need these games.”
Nathaniel Lowe doubled to lead off the seventh, tying his career high with an 11-game hitting streak. After an error by shortstop Jeremy Peña allowed Adolis García to reach, Josh Jung singled and Jonah Heim drew a bases-loaded walk to score Lowe.
Robbie Grossman followed with an RBI single to chase Astros starter Framber Valdez (1-2). Héctor Neris retired the next two batters before Semien’s grand slam to left field on an 0-2 pitch.
“I was definitely down in the hole,” Semien said. “I think it took me swinging and missing on the splitter to get a sense of where I really needed to start. … I got it exactly where I needed to get it, and of course this ballpark, short porch, so that was a bonus.”
Texas manager Bruce Bochy said the inning showed what the Rangers could do when they take advantage of a situation.
“Lowe started that inning, and we had some good at-bats,” Bochy said. “The whole order did something to put up that big number. Marcus topped it off. That’s what you’re hoping: Keep it close, then something like that happens where you break it open, and it couldn’t have worked out better for us.”
Heim added a sacrifice fly in the eighth, and Leody Taveras hit a two-run double.
Andrew Heaney permitted two hits over five shutout innings for Texas. He struck out four and walked three.
The Astros threatened in the seventh as Brock Burke (1-0) walked the bases loaded. Jonathan Hernández struck out the next two hitters but walked Alex Bregman to force in Peña, who doubled to start the inning. Will Smith induced a groundout from Yordan Alvarez to end the inning.
Houston manager Dusty Baker called the loss disappointing.
“They scored seven unearned runs,” Baker said. “We didn’t play very well. We made some mistakes in the field. We made some mistakes on the bases. We had some opportunities. The 0-2 grand slam really hurt. That was the major difference in the game.”
Valdez yielded five runs – one earned – and four hits with seven strikeouts in six innings. He retired 18 of the first 20 batters he faced before running into trouble in the seventh.
“He had the walk (to Heim) on a close pitch, and we left him in there because nobody throws a groundball double play better than Framber,” Baker said. “They hit two balls through the infield that could have been double-play balls. You’re trying to get a double play, and he’s the best double-play guy that I had on the team, and even in the bullpen.”
Mauricio Dubón stretched his career-long hitting streak to 11 games with a single in the fifth, but was thrown out trying to advance to second.
Rangers: C Mitch Garver (left knee) will be “down a while,” Bochy said. Garver was placed on the injured list April 9.
Astros: OF Chas McCormick was out of the lineup for a second straight game after leaving Friday’s game with vision problems. Baker said McCormick wasn’t 100%, and he didn’t know if McCormick would be available on Monday. … OF Michael Brantley (right shoulder) took live batting practice, Baker said.
Bochy turned 68 on Sunday. He improved to 11-11 when managing on his birthday, including 8-5 in road games.
Rangers: RHP Jacob deGrom (1-0, 4.32 ERA) starts Monday opposite Royals RHP Jordan Lyles (0-2, 5.19 ERA) in the opener of a three-game series at Kansas City.
Astros: RHP Cristian Javier (1-0, 4.24 ERA) starts Monday at home in the opener of a three-game series against Blue Jays RHP Kevin Gausman (1-1, 1.35).