ARLINGTON, Texas — Marwin Gonzalez had four hits and three RBIs as the AL West champion Houston Astros beat Texas 11-2 on Monday night, putting the Rangers on the brink of elimination in the wild-card race.
Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, the American League leader with 199 hits and a .348 batting average, left in the eighth inning after he was hit by a 95 mph fastball. The team said X-rays were negative and Altuve had a bruised forearm.
Gonzalez had two hits and scored twice in an eight-run fourth, including a two-run single that chased starter Andrew Cashner (10-11). Gonzalez later hit his 23rd homer, a solo shot in the sixth.
Collin McHugh (4-2) struck out six while throwing 112 pitches in five innings. The right-hander is 15-0 with a 2.94 ERA in 19 starts in September or October during his four seasons with the Astros.
McHugh also had another dustup with former Astros teammate Carlos Gomez, who apparently took exception to being quick-pitched after he changed bats following an inside pitch immediately after Joey Gallo's 39th home run. Gomez walked toward the mound, and the benches and bullpens cleared, though no punches were thrown.
Texas (76-80), division champs the past two years, had an early 2-0 lead before losing its fourth straight game. The Rangers dropped six games behind idle Minnesota for the second American League wild card with six to play.
The Astros (96-60) are within two games of AL Central champion Cleveland for the best record in the league, though the Indians own the tiebreaker for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if they finish with the same record.
Only one of the eight runs in the Astros' fourth was earned. Houston had four hits — two each by Gonzalez and Evan Gattis, who had a two-run double — and was helped by two walks, a hit batter and two errors.
Cashner's ERA actually dropped — from 3.44 to 3.42 — after becoming the first Rangers pitcher since knuckleballer Charlie Hough in 1987 to allow seven unearned runs.
McHugh was on the disabled list in early May when he had a heated exchange of words with Gomez, who had to be restrained from Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr. after a pitch thrown behind Mike Napoli's head.
When Gomez was still with the Astros last season, McHugh responded on the mound with an obscenity after Gomez lost a fly ball while playing centre field and it went over his head.
Astros: OF Josh Reddick, who has been dealing with a sore back, was out of the lineup for the second time in three games. Houston manager A.J. Hinch said Reddick is fine but probably won't play Tuesday.
Rangers: Manager Jeff Banister rejoined the team after missing the previous two games to be with his mother in the Houston area after she experienced some complications following surgery. "She made it evident that it was necessary for me to come back here," Banister said.
Dallas Keuchel and Cole Hamels, left-handed aces who have both missed more than 50 games this season, pitch the middle game of the series. Keuchel (13-5) is making his 12th start since missing 53 games during two DL stints (pinched nerve in back, neck discomfort). Hamels (11-4) missed 51 games because of a right oblique strain.
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