Texas Rangers reliever Neal Cotts knew it immediately.
Houston Astros outfielder Robbie Grossman drilled the first pitch he saw from Cotts in the eighth inning over the wall in left field for a two-run, go-ahead homer.
The Astros added another run against Cotts to beat the Rangers 4-3 in front of 24,256 at Minute Maid Park. Texas has lost a series-high six consecutive games to Houston and the Silver Boot is in serious jeopardy of going to the Astros for the first time since 2006. Houston leads the season series 7-3 with nine games remaining.
“He just didn’t make some pitches he should have made,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “He certainly didn’t want that fastball where he had it on Grossman.”
Until Grossman’s no-doubt-about-it shot, the Rangers were clinging to a 2-1 lead for much of the night. Cotts (2-6) entered the game after the bullpen had held onto a 2-1 lead in the sixth and seventh. It’s Cott’s sixth blown save.
The Rangers have lost two consecutive series against Houston after winning the previous 15. Texas has won the Silver Boot the past seven seasons since 2007.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Rangers made it interesting.
Adam Rosales led off with a double to the left-field corner and later scored on Mike Carp’s pinch-hit single to left. Rougned Odor singled to put the go-ahead run on, but Daniel Robertson hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the game.
In a season filled with tough-to-swallow losses, Friday’s ranks near the top.
“It was a tough ballgame,” Washington said. “We put up two runs in the first inning and just couldn’t get anything else. The Astros fought for their at-bats. They beat us and they beat our best pitcher we had in that situation.”
Texas took a 2-0 lead on J.P. Arencibia’s two-run, first- inning homer but managed just six more hits the final eight innings and failed to push any more runs across until the bottom of the ninth.
Chris Carter’s solo homer in the fifth inning cut the Rangers’ lead to 2-1. It was Carter’s 25th of the season.
It was the only run allowed by starter Miles Mikolas, who held Houston to four hits in five innings. Mikolas has allowed three runs on nine hits in his past 12 innings since getting roughed up by Oakland for seven earned runs in 4 2/3 innings on July 27.
Although Mikolas didn’t qualify for a quality start, he left the game with a 2-1 lead after five innings despite struggling with his fastball command. He found refuge in his off-speed pitches to keep the Astros off-balance just enough. But he was forced to throw a lot of pitches and had thrown 105 by the time he left the game.
“He was able to make his pitches when he had to,” Washington said. “He just didn’t have his command as well as he has had in the past. He got ahead of a lot of hitters ... 0-2 counts and then the next thing you know it’s 3-2. He just didn’t have the pitch to put them away and it cost him where he could have been in there in the sixth and seventh inning. It’s youth. You have to give him credit the way he fought.”
Shawn Tolleson took over to start the sixth and quickly was in a jam after the first two Astros singled. He recovered, however, and stuck out the bottom two hitters in Houston’s lineup and forced a flyout to right to end the inning and preserve the lead.
Roman Mendez pitched the seventh and he caught the first two Astros looking at strike three, the first a 96 mph fastball to Jason Castro, followed by an 87 mph slider to Carter. Marc Krauss fouled out to the catcher to end the inning.