ARLINGTON — The Texas Rangers fell behind early again Tuesday, and for the second consecutive night, the Houston Astros didn’t take their foot off the gas.The Astros’ 8-3 win in front of 32,608 at Globe Life Park has brought the scuffling, injury-riddled Rangers to the precipice of last place in the AL West.Texas (38-52) leads Houston (38-54) by a game with the Astros going for the clean sweep against Yu Darvish (8-4) on Wednesday.The Rangers have lost nine of their last 10 games and are 3-17 since June 17. Meanwhile, the Astros are a win away from sweeping the Rangers for the first time since June 20-22, 2003, also in Arlington. Houston clinched its first series win at Texas since 2006. Rangers pitching has allowed 20 runs on 29 hits in the first two games of the series.On Tuesday, the Astros showed their power.Chris Carter homered twice, both solo shots. The second came on the first pitch of a three-run eighth inning that iced the game for the Astros.Carlos Corporan reached on an infield single, and Enrique Hernandez doubled off the left-field wall to set up a play that typifies the way things are going for the Rangers at the moment.Marwin Gonzalez’s hard shot bounced off pitcher Aaron Poreda and back to catcher Chris Gimenez in front of home plate. Gimenez was forced to watch as Corporan crossed a vacant home plate.Jose Altuve’s sacrifice fly to center pushed across the Astros’ final run.Gimenez also was involved in an early play that helped Houston take a 2-0 lead in the first inning. After Altuve’s leadoff single, Robbie Grossman struck out swinging but reached first when Gimenez took too much time retrieving the wild pitch out in front of home plate.Rangers pitcher Phil Irwin, who was making his second major league start and first for Texas, walked George Springer to load the bases before run-scoring singles from Jon Singleton and Matt Dominguez.Texas’ offense chipped away with a run each in the second, fourth and seventh innings, but each time Houston answered.After Leonys Martin hit his fifth homer to make it 2-1 in the second, Springer roped a shot to center field that traveled an estimated 430 feet.Neftali Feliz replaced Irwin after a leadoff walk in the fifth. Irwin allowed three runs on six hits in four innings.“He did keep us in the ballgame,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “I think he was a little nervous in the beginning. He settled down in the middle two innings. When you got the ball over the plate, they hit it. It’s always a challenge when your starters don’t give the innings you need.”Left fielder Jake Smolinski, making his first major league start, collected his first big-league hit with an RBI double in the seventh. He later added a single in the ninth inning. He had struck out in his first three at-bats, including a pinch-hit appearance in Monday’s game.“It feels great. I was excited to get the hits, but it would’ve been nicer to get the ‘W’ also,” he said. “I felt like I was seeing the ball well. My first two at-bats I had some tough pitches, but I told myself to just keep on it, stay positive and stick with it. Obviously, I was nervous. I just tried to breathe deep and just remind myself that it’s just baseball and have fun.”Fun has been hard to come by lately for the Rangers.
Stefan Stevenson 817-390-7760 Twitter: @StevensonFWST