HOUSTON (AP) — There’s something about the sixth inning in the last week for Nelson Cruz.
He’s hit game-tying home runs in the frame in three games in a week for the Texas Rangers.
The latest one came on Saturday night when Cruz, Adrian Beltre and Lance Berkman all homered to back up another solid outing by Yu Darvish, and the Rangers held on for an 8-7 win over the Houston Astros.
His first one came Sunday in a win over Boston, and he also did it in a victory over Houston Friday.
“I wish we could play the sixth inning to start every (game),” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “That was a big hit. That was a real big hit.”
Cruz struggled to quantify what’s been different for him lately.
“I guess I get more focused,” said Cruz, who has nine homers this season. “It’s something you can’t explain; it’s baseball. It’s something I’ve been doing all my career, late in the innings making sure I get my focus.”
Darvish (6-1) yielded three hits and three runs, leaving after the seventh with an 8-3 lead. In his previous outing against the Astros, he came within one out of pitching a perfect game at Houston on April 2.
Matt Dominguez homered twice off Darvish. Dominguez didn’t play in the first game against the Japanese star this season.
“I think the only thing he struggled with today was Dominguez,” Washington said. “Other than that, I thought he did a good job. He handled the rest of the lineup. He just threw two pitches to Dominguez that he didn’t miss.”
Darvish didn’t think any player had ever taken him deep more than once in a game before Saturday, but then he realized that wasn’t true.
“That’s what I thought, but then I recalled in high school I think I gave up two home runs to the same hitter in a game,” he said through a translator.
Dominguez, who didn’t have a homer before Saturday, was excited to face Darvish, since he missed him the first time around.
“That’s kind of big for me,” he said. “I was waiting for my first home run to come, and it took a while. But to go out and face him and be able to do it off him, such a great pitcher, it’s a big confidence boost.”
Houston led 3-1 before it was done in by its bullpen during a six-run sixth inning by the Rangers. Cruz, who also homered on Friday night, got things going with his two-run homer off reliever Philip Humber (0-8) that tied it. Pinch-hitter David Murphy put the Rangers on top with an RBI double.
Humber, who was moved out of the rotation this week, was rocked for five hits and five runs while getting only two outs.
“Obviously that one is on me,” Humber said. “I didn’t execute some pitches I needed to execute, and they made me pay for it.”
The Astros scored three times in the ninth to cut the lead to one run, but closer Joe Nathan settled down to retire pinch-hitter Chris Carter to end it and get his 11th save.
Darvish fanned eight and leads the majors with 80 strikeouts. With 301 career strikeouts, he joined Dwight Gooden (319) as the only pitchers in major league history to reach at least 300 in their first 37 major league starts.
Darvish improved to 3-0 with 33 strikeouts in three career starts against the Astros.
The Houston bullpen trouble ruined a nice night for starter Erik Bedard, who allowed four hits and two runs with seven strikeouts in five innings.
Beltre put Texas up 1-0 with a solo homer to start the second.
Darvish retired the first seven batters before Dominguez launched a solo drive in the third. Marwin Gonzalez, who singled to break up Darvish’s perfect game with two outs in the ninth last month, followed with an infield hit.
Dominguez’s two-run homer in the fifth put Houston ahead 3-1. It was the first multihomer game of his career.
Berkman extended his hitting streak at Minute Maid Park to 17 games with a single to start the sixth inning that chased Bedard. Humber took over and struck out Beltre before the trouble began.
Cruz tied it at 3 with a homer that landed in Houston’s bullpen in right-center field. Moreland followed with a soaring triple, which landed on Tal’s Hill just in front of the center-field wall at the 436-foot mark. Murphy’s ground-rule double made it 4-3.
Geovany Soto walked, pinch-hitter Leonys Martin hit a two-run triple and Elvis Andrus had an RBI single for a 7-3 lead, chasing Humber.
Berkman hit a solo homer to left-center field off Jose Cisnero to start the seventh inning.
A sacrifice fly by Jose Altuve got Houston within 8-4 in the eighth inning.
Carlos Corporan singled and Carlos Pena doubled to start Houston’s ninth, and the Rangers replaced Michael Kirkman with Nathan.
Trevor Crowe hit an RBI single to make it 8-6, Nathan threw a wild pitch that scored a run and Gonzalez had a sacrifice fly. Robbie Grossman walked before Carter’s fly ball ended the game. NOTES: Murphy was shaken up when he crashed into the wall in left field trying to catch a double by Grossman in the eighth inning, but he remained in the game and Washington said he was OK. … Texas pitching coach Mike Maddux missed Saturday’s game to attend daughter Makayla’s graduation from TCU. Bullpen coach Andy Hawkins filled in for him, and minor league pitching coordinator Danny Clark joined the team as bullpen coach for the night. … Houston OF Fernando Martinez cleared waivers and will be outrighted to Triple-A Oklahoma City. … OF Rick Ankiel, who was released by Houston on Monday, has cleared unconditional release waivers and can sign with any club. … The series wraps up on Sunday when Houston’s Jordan Lyles opposes Nick Tepesch.