The Houston Astros haven’t fared well this season after trailing early and hadn’t overcome a deficit of more than three runs this year.
None of that fazed this young team on Saturday night after falling into a 4-0 hole in the third inning.
Justin Maxwell hit one of Houston’s season-high three homers to put his team on top in the fifth inning and the Astros held on for a 6-5 win over the Texas Rangers.
”We’ve been scrapping like that all year regardless of the score,” Maxwell said. ”If we get behind early, the guys know they have to put together good at-bats to get us back in the ball game.”
But their resolve hasn’t led to much success in games like this, and entering Saturday they were 5-14 when an opponent scored first.
”The ability to be able to come back is huge in any ball game,” Houston manager Brad Mills said. ”To see them continue to battle. I’ve seen that all year long. It’s very gratifying for them to see that everything they’re doing, they’re going in the right direction.”
Maxwell’s second home run of the year, and first since his first at-bat as an Astro earlier this season, came with one on and two outs in the fifth inning to make it 5-4. Chris Snyder had a solo shot in the third and Carlos Lee’s two-run homer in the fourth helped close the gap.
The Rangers took an early lead thanks to a four-run third inning, highlighted by David Murphy’s three-run inside-the-park home run.
The Astros added an insurance run in the sixth when J.D. Martinez doubled and scored on a double by Travis Buck after a walk by Snyder.
Houston starter Lucas Harrell (3-3) yielded five hits and four runs — one earned — in 5 2/3 innings.
Brett Myers allowed a single by Elvis Andrus with one out in the ninth, but Josh Hamilton grounded into a double play to end the game. Andrus got caught in a rundown after Hamilton’s grounder, and was out when Myers tagged his foot on a close play at second to earn his 10th save.
Derek Holland (3-3), who was pitching on four days of extra rest, allowed five hits and five runs in five innings in his shortest start of the season. He last started on May 10, but pitched an inning of relief on Monday.
”My fastball command just went erratic all of a sudden,” he said. ”I couldn’t locate down. Everything was up. Just fell behind, too, and made it predictable for them what to sit on, too.”
Andrus tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Hamilton to get Texas within 6-5 in the seventh inning.
Michael Young singled off Wilton Lopez to start the eighth. Lopez was replaced by Wesley Wright, who gave up a pinch-hit single to Brandon Snyder. Wright was relieved by Brandon Lyon, who retired Nelson Cruz before Mike Napoli grounded out, leaving runners at second and third.
Houston escaped the jam when Maxwell caught a fly ball by pinch-hitter Craig Gentry.
”We still (were) within striking distance,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. ”We had opportunities. We just didn’t cash it in.”
It was the first time Houston had three home runs in a game since Sept. 7 against Pittsburgh. The Astros did it in front of their second sellout crowd of the season to even the three-game series at 1-1.
Andrus walked with one out in the third inning before reaching second on a groundout by Hamilton. Andrus scored on a single to left field by Adrian Beltre to make it 1-0. Beltre has a 10-game hitting streak.
Michael Young reached on a force attempt on an error by shortstop Jed Lowrie to leave two on and two out.
Then came Murphy’s inside-the-park homer on a fly ball to right center field.
Maxwell dived to try and make the catch and Jordan Schafer tripped over him in the process. Schafer got up and grabbed the ball near the wall and threw to Jose Altuve. Murphy beat Altuve’s throw home to make it 4-0.
It was the first inside-the-park homer for Murphy, the 23rd one in franchise history and the first for Texas since Gentry did it at Seattle last Sept. 23.
”I saw both guys dive, and when I it got past them I was probably halfway between first and second and knew I had a chance,” Murphy said. ”I started running as fast as I could. I probably put it in overdrive a little too quickly because I ran out of gas at the end.”
The last inside-the-park home run at Minute Maid Park came on Altuve’s first career homer on Aug. 20.
Schafer was injured on Murphy’s home run and left the game with a sprained right ankle. Brian Bogusevic entered the game at right field and Maxwell took Schafer’s spot in center.
X-rays on Schafer’s ankle were negative and the team said he would undergo more tests on Monday.
After Murphy’s homer, Snyder got the Astros within 4-1 with a solo shot to left field in the third inning. Lee cut the lead to 4-3 with his two-run homer to left in the fourth after Maxwell walked.
NOTES: Texas pitcher Robbie Ross has the most wins in the majors by a relief pitcher this season with five. … These teams wrap up the series on Sunday when Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis opposes Jordan Lyles. … Cruz has been experiencing tightness in his right quad for three games, but Washington said he was OK.