ARLINGTON (AP) – Nelson Cruz hit a towering three-run homer the pitch after Adrian Beltre’s two-run single and the Texas Rangers went on to an 8-3 victory over the Houston Astros, making Justin Grimm a winner in his major league debut Saturday night.
Rookie Lucas Harrell (6-5) had held Texas scoreless until those consecutive one-out pitches in the sixth, right after a botched rundown loaded the bases instead of getting out the lead runner.
Grimm (1-0), whose contract was purchased earlier in the day from Double-A Frisco, allowed six hits and three runs over six innings. The 23-year-old right-hander struck out seven without a walk.
After giving up a two-out solo homer to Jed Lowrie in the first, Grimm struck out five consecutive batters.
The Rangers trailed 3-0 when Grimm threw the last of his 88 pitches, but Craig Gentry and Ian Kinsler had consecutive singles to start the bottom of the sixth. They advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Elvis Andrus before a big defensive miscue.
Harrell snagged Michael Young’s comebacker and had Gentry caught up between third base and home. After the throw to Chris Johnson pursing the runner, the third baseman’s toss to catcher Chris Snyder was dropped and allowed Gentry to safely scamper back to third.
Beltre followed by grounding a single through the left side of the infield to cut the deficit to 3-2. Cruz then hit his ninth homer, a 431-foot shot that landed deep in the Astros bullpen in left-center field.
Grimm was pitching in place of Alexi Ogando, who will be out four to six weeks after he strained his right groin running out a bunt single in San Francisco last Sunday. Ogando had thrown three perfect innings in his first start of the season while filling in for Derek Holland, who was already on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue.
With an off day Thursday, the Rangers haven’t said what they will do when that spot in the rotation comes up again at the end of next week. They could skip the spot, have Grimm make another start or three-time All-Star Roy Oswalt — scheduled to make his fourth minor league start Sunday since signing with Texas last month — could be ready to join the Rangers by then.
Harrell allowed five runs and seven hits over 5 1-3 innings. He had won his last two starts, games the Astros won 9-8 and 11-9.
Texas clinched the Silver Boot Trophy for the sixth year in a row, having won four of five games this season before the series finale between the Lone Star State rivals Sunday afternoon. They will be division rivals next year when the Astros switch from the National League Central to the American League West.
Houston led 3-0 in the fifth after Brian Bogusevic had a leadoff double and scored on Justin Maxwell’s double before Jordan Schafer’s RBI single. Lowrie’s 13th homers are the most among major league shortstops.
Before their outburst in the sixth, the second night in the row the Rangers had a five-run inning against Houston, only one runner had even reached second base against Harrell.
Gentry led off the seventh with a single, stole second and scored on Kinsler’s single. Kinsler also had a stolen base, moved to third on a deep flyball by Andrus and scored when Young tied the Rangers franchise record with his 66th career sacrifice fly.
NOTES: LHP Dallas Keuchel will make his major league debut Sunday for the Astros. They will have to make a roster move before Sunday’s game to add Keuchel, who starts in place of RHP Bud Norris (sprained left knee). … Houston 1B Carlos Lee (strained left hamstring) is eligible to be reinstated from the DL Sunday, which would require another roster move.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)