Astros' slide reaches five as Fiers struggles

Astros' slide reaches five as Fiers struggles

ARLINGTON -- The Astros still have a comfortable lead in the American League West, but their midsummer slump continued with an 8-3 loss to the Rangers that extended their losing streak to five straight games. They have also lost 12 of their last 16.

The Rangers, who retired Ivan Rodriguez's No. 7 jersey before the game, have won three straight as they go for a sweep of the Astros on Sunday afternoon. They will also be going for their longest winning streak since five straight June 9-13. Texas is 2 1/2 games behind the Angels for the second AL Wild Card spot, while Houston leads the Halos by 12 games in the AL West.

Ivan inspiration? Spirits high for rising Rangers

Adrian Beltre led the Rangers with three hits and three RBIs, while Shin-Soo Choo reached base four times on a single and three walks. Brett Nicholas hit a three-run home run, Mike Napoli added a solo shot and starter Tyson Ross picked up the win coming off the disabled list while allowing three runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Beltre's two-run single

"We really haven't played to our capabilities," Napoli said. "We're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We're still in this thing, we believe. We know we're a good team, and we're just going to go out there and put it on the line every day and see what happens."

Napoli's impressive solo jack

Mike Fiers took the loss for the Astros, allowing six runs in four-plus innings. He is 0-3 with an 8.41 ERA in his last four starts, and Astros starters are 2-8 with a 6.62 ERA in their last 16 games.

"We did give them a lot of extra bases," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "They took advantage of it and came up with some big hits, some two-out hits. They hit the ball out of the ballpark, they played from ahead. You put a combination of those things together, it makes for a tall hill to climb. Not good."

Slippery slope: Astros starters try to find footing

The Astros had two key baserunners thrown out at bad times. Marwin Gonzalez, with the game still scoreless, led off the second with a single into the gap but was thrown out by left fielder Joey Gallo trying for a double.

Rangers cut down Gonzalez

The Astros trailed, 3-1, in the fourth but had runners on first and second with two out when J.D. Davis doubled off the right-field wall. Alex Bregman scored easily from second, but Derek Fisher was thrown out trying to score from first on a strong relay throw from second baseman Rougned Odor. It was Davis' first Major League RBI.

Davis' RBI double in the 4th

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bush bails out Ross: Ross had a 6-2 lead with two out in the sixth, when he ran into trouble. He hit Bregman, gave up a single to Gonzalez and walked both Fisher and Davis to force in a run. Matt Bush then took over to face Juan Centeno. Bush fell behind 3-0 in the count, but rallied and retired Centeno on a routine fly to left to end the inning.

"Just battling ... just win it," Bush said. "Trying to do my best to minimize the damage. Tyson pitched his tail off ... this was a team win, everybody played great."

Bush escapes a jam in the 6th

Nicholas goes deep: The Rangers were in danger of letting a second-inning opportunity slip away when Nicholas hit a two-out three-run home run off Fiers. Gallo started the inning with a walk and Carlos Gomez was hit by a pitch. Fiers retired Odor on a fly to left and struck out Napoli. But Nicholas, making his fourth start at catcher since being called up, connected on a 1-1 changeup and hit the ball off the upper deck facade in right field. It was his first home run this season and his third in the big leagues.

"It felt good because it got us off to a quick lead," Nicholas said. "It allowed Tyson to relax and attack the zone. Anytime you can get off to a 3-0 lead against these guys, good things are going to happen."

Nicholas on homer, win

QUOTABLE
"I don't know what's going on. I've got nothing to say." -- Gomez, on getting hit twice by the Astros

Gomez reaches on hit-by-pitch

FURTHER REVIEW
Beltre, with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth, tried to score on Odor's fly ball to center and was thrown out by George Springer at the plate. The Rangers challenged the play on the grounds that Astros catcher Centeno missed the tag and may have been in violation of the home plate collision rule. But the call on the field was confirmed.

Springer cuts down Beltre

BUECHELE EJECTED
Rangers bench coach Steve Buechele was ejected in the top of the fifth inning by first-base umpire Stu Scheurwater. Buechele wasn't happy about a check-swing that wasn't called against Jose Altuve in the fourth on a leadoff walk and continued to argue in the fifth. It was the seventh ejection for the Rangers this year, the first for Buechele.

Banister chats with umpires

WHAT'S NEXT
Astros: Left-hander Dallas Keuchel pitches against the Rangers at 2:05 p.m. CT on Sunday at Globe Life Park. Keuchel is 0-2 with a 10.50 ERA in his last three starts since coming off the disabled list on July 28. He is 6-7 with a 4.04 ERA in 19 career starts against the Rangers.

Rangers: Right-hander Andrew Cashner makes his first start since Aug. 2 when he pitches against the Astros. He was scratched from a start on Tuesday because of stiffness in his neck. He has won three straight starts.

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T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter..

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.