ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - The Houston Astros already are hitting some really low points.
J.A. Happ lasted only 2 2-3 innings in his fifth consecutive defeat and the Astros dropped to 20 games under .500 after an 8-3 loss to the Texas Rangers in the Lone Star Series opener Monday night.
Houston was already down 7-0 against left-hander Derek Holland when Happ (3-9) threw his last pitch. It was the left-hander's shortest outing of the season.
``Sometimes when you fall behind that much, sometimes guys try to do too much and get it back all at once,' second baseman Jeff Keppinger said. ``When you fall behind like that it's really tough because they get the confidence and their pitcher feels like he can make pitches now, he doesn't have to be scared and nibble around. He just came right at us.'
The last time the Astros (27-47) were this far under .500 was September 2007, when they reached 21 games under. The only time Houston plummeted to 20 games under .500 in fewer games was in 2000, at 25-45.
Happ lost his fifth straight decision in a span of seven starts. He gave up seven runs (five earned) and eight hits over 2 2-3 innings before reliever Aneury Rodriguez threw 4 1-3 scoreless innings.
``We just never allowed (Happ) to get into a groove and get going,' Astros manager Brad Mills said. ``You want hitters and pitchers, you want 'em to get into a groove, get 'em going in the game, and we never allowed that.'
Ian Kinsler reached on an error by third baseman Chris Johnson leading off the first and scored on Adrian Beltre's first single to put Texas up 1-0. Michael Young added an RBI double and Nelson Cruz a sacrifice fly.
Josh Hamilton tripled off the left-center wall in the second and came home when Beltre singled again to make it 6-0. Craig Gentry chased Happ with an RBI double in the third.
``I think those same pitches, when I'm ahead in the count, are different swings. Obviously, the results weren't good tonight,' Happ said. ``I'd like to say I can forget about it, but that was a tough one for sure.'
The Rangers scored more than six runs only once on their just-completed 3-7 road trip. They had that many runs after two innings.
``We were able to relax a little bit,' manager Ron Washington said. ``We did a good job against Happ, not chasing too many of his off-speed pitches. When we got pitches to hit, we didn't try to do too much with it.'
Mitch Moreland had a leadoff homer in the Texas eighth, a towering shot estimated at 455 feet that landed halfway up in the second deck of seats in right field.
Holland (6-2) allowed three runs and six hits with four strikeouts over 7 1-3 innings for his first win at Rangers Ballpark since beating Kansas City on April 22. The left-hander had since made four starts at home without a decision.
Michael Bourn led off the Houston fourth with his 19th infield hit. Keppinger followed with a double before a sacrifice fly by Carlos Lee and an RBI single by Jason Michaels made it 7-2. But Holland kept the inning from getting any bigger, retiring 11 of the next 13 batters he faced (two walks) through the seventh.
``He was sitting on the outside corner for the most part,' Keppinger said. ``He'd show inside every once in a while but he was getting ahead, not falling behind hitters.'
The Astros' first hit was Carlos Corporan's one-out single in the third. He was quickly doubled up when second baseman Kinsler made an over-the-shoulder grab of Jason Bourgeois' popup in short right with Corporan already running from first base.
Michaels, who entered hitting .190 with three RBIs in 35 games, had another RBI single in the eighth.
``It was nice for him to get a couple of base hits and a couple of RBIs. We were trying to keep innings alive and get things going,' Mills said. ``When you're behind the 8-ball early, a lot of times it's tough to hop back into it.'
NOTES: Texas and Houston play six times in a span of 11 days when both teams have two days off. The Rangers have won 11 of the last 13 in their instate rivalry. ... Bourn got his major league-best 30th stolen base in the first inning. It is his fourth consecutive season with at least 30 steals. ... Before Happ's early meltdown, Houston starting pitchers had a 2.17 ERA the previous nine games. ... The Astros finished 72-90 in 2000. Through 74 games in its 1962 inaugural season, Houston was 32-41-1.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved