Rangers in jeopardy of losing Silver Boot with lopsided loss to Astros

Texas Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos and pitching coach Mike Maddux (31) visiti starting pitcher Miles Mikolas, center, on the mound in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros, Monday, July 7, 2014, in Arlington, Texas.

Tony Gutierrez/AP

ARLINGTON, Texas – Brace yourselves, Rangers fans: The Silver Boot trophy is in doubt.

The Astros hammered the Rangers, 12-7, on Monday to take a 4-3 lead in the season series between Texas’ major league teams.

The Rangers have won the last seven Silver Boots, including last year’s 17-2 runaway in the season series.

This year is much different. The Astros produced 17 hits against the injury-riddled Rangers, 12 of them off Miles Mikolas in his second major league start.

Meanwhile, any hopes of a Rangers comeback were thwarted by seven consecutive strikeouts over the sixth, seventh and eight innings. The seven-straight K’s tied a club record.

Mikolas lasted just 3 1/3 innings, the worst of which was a five-run second inning. The Astros pelted Mikolas with a series of soft singles until No. 9 hitter Marwin Gonzales unleashed a three-run triple.

It wasn’t a case of Mikolas getting rattled. He gave up no walks, and of the 88 pitches Mikolas threw, 63 were strikes.

"Well it wasn’t quality [strikes]," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He left too many pitches out over the plate. It was strikes, but you have to throw quality strikes.

"That one inning, they just found a way to put the ball in play and hit the grass out there. And then Gonzales was the big blow."

A 425-foot home run by Jon Singleton was the other big blow in the fourth inning, scoring three runs and giving the Astros a 9-2.

Just like in the second inning when soft hits led to a big Astros rally, Singleton’s homer was preceded by two infield singles.

"I’ve got to make better pitches with guys on base," Mikolas said. "An inch makes all the difference up here and I’ve got to be a little bit better with two strikes. That inning I had Singleton 0-2 and I threw him a curveball. Way too good a pitch on 0-2."

The injury-riddled Rangers don’t have many options for starting pitching. On Tuesday, the Astros will take their hacks against righthander Phil Irwin, who will be called up from Triple-A Round Rock.

Offensively, the Rangers started pecking away almost immediately at the Astros’ lead. After scoring a run on an error in the bottom of the second, back-to-back doubles by Alex Rios and Adrian Beltre led to another run in the third.

Elvis Andrus knocked in three runs with a double in the fourth, then Beltre homered in the fifth.

Beltre extended his hitting streak to 11 games, the second-longest active streak in the American League, and has four homers in his last 11 games.

It wasn’t enough to keep up with the Astros against a tired Texas bullpen. Scott Baker got the majority of the relief work and gave up three runs in 3 1/3 innings.

"Each time we’ve brought him in he’s saved the bullpen," Washington said. "He did it again tonight. I tried not to bring him in too early, but I had to do it because the rest of the guys were on fumes out there."

Ironically, just as the Rangers’ offense begins to show signs of life, the pitching can’t support it. The Rangers’ seven runs off 11 hits should be enough to win most games, especially against the Astros who came into the game on a seven-game losing streak.

"They’ve been coming around," Washington said of his offense. "They’ve been putting runs on the board, we just haven’t been able to stop the other team. We’ve just got to get back to pitching better. I do think now if our pitching can give our offense a chance, we’ll start putting enough runs on the board to win some games."

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire