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  • Jan 4
    Jose Altuve was more than due when he came to bat in the 10th
    inning Justin
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    , and got a winning rally started for the Houston Astros.





    ”He hadn’t gotten a hit in four at-bats,” manager A.J. Hinch said of the
    second basemen who led the American League in hits each of the past four seasons
    and is the MLB leader so far this year.



    Altuve was actually in an 0-for-13 slide before his fifth at-bat Wednesday
    night against the Texas Rangers. His 115th hit of the season was a one-out
    single off Chris Martin, who then hit Yuli Gurriel with a pitch before an errant
    pickoff throw allowed both runners to move up. That set up Evan Gattis‘
    tiebreaking sacrifice fly in a 5-4 victory.





    Gurriel homered, doubled and scored twice as the Astros overcame an early
    four-run deficit. His fifth homer, leading off the fifth against starter Mike
    Minor, tied the game at 4.



    Josh Reddick also went deep for the Astros, who their eighth consecutive road
    game against Texas and are a majors-best 32-14 on the road this season. The
    Astros have a 12-4 advantage in the season series between the instate division
    rivals that has only a three-game set remaining in Houston later this month.



    Shin-Soo Choo homered and had a single to extend his on-base streak to 44
    games, the longest in his career and in the majors this season. That matches
    Otis Nixon’s streak in 1995 for the Rangers, and trails only Julio Franco’s
    46-gamer in 1993 for the team record.



    Texas led 4-0 after Choo’s one-out solo homer started a three-run outburst in
    the third off starter Gerrit Cole.



    Collin McHugh (4-0), who won 48 games as a starter for the Astros the past
    four seasons, allowed only one hit over three scoreless innings. Ken Giles
    worked the 10th for his 12th save in 12 chances.



    ”You’re talking about a 19-game winner in the big leagues. Those don’t grow
    on
    trees Justin
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    ,” said Astros reliever Will Harris, who worked out of a
    jam in the sixth before McHugh took over. ”He goes out there and he knows who he
    is. He mixes it up, he’s a strike thrower and he’s a fearless guy out
    there.”



    MESSY MOUND



    The start of the game was delayed for a few minutes after Minor had issues
    with the mound during warmups. The ground crew came out to work on the slippery
    dirt. Cole also was unhappy with the mound. Martin (1-2) slipped and fell down
    when throwing the pitch that hit Gurriel. The Rangers said afterward that Martin
    was being evaluated for a left groin issue.



    ”The mound early seemed to be slick,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.



    DEEP ON THE ROAD



    The Astros have homered in 24 consecutive road games, three short of the MLB
    record set by the Oakland Athletics earlier this season. Baltimore also went
    deep in 24 consecutive road games in 1996.



    RACKING UP K’s



    Cole, who threw 108 pitches to get through five innings, struck out seven to
    increase his season total to 158. The only Astros pitcher with more strikeouts
    before the All-Star break is Mike Scott, with 167 in 22 starts in 1986. Cole has
    made 18 starts, with two more scheduled before the break. … In four starts
    against Texas this season, Cole has 40 strikeouts in 25 innings.



    FAR FROM PERFECT



    Minor retired the first 19 San Diego batters he faced in his previous start a
    week earlier. The lefty allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits over six
    innings against Houston with four strikeouts and three walks.



    ”Probably not as sharp as he’s been,” Banister said. ”Looked like they were
    sitting on slider.”



    TRAINER’S ROOM



    Astros: Hinch said C Max Stassi was feeling better than expected after
    getting hit by a pitch on his right (throwing) wrist in the first inning
    Tuesday Noah
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    , on the same day starting catcher Brian McCann had
    arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.



    Rangers: 3B Adrian Beltre, baseball’s active career hits leader (3,108), was
    scratched from the lineup about an hour before the game because of an infected
    tooth. He had a root canal and then traveled with the team to Detroit. … RHP
    Tony Barnette went on the 10-day disabled list. An MRI revealed a strained lat
    that will keep him from throwing for at least four weeks. He left Tuesday
    night’s game in the middle of a batter.



    UP NEXT



    Astros: Justin Verlander (9-4), who has lost his last two starts, is on the
    mound when the Astros return home for the opener Thursday night of a four-game
    series against the Chicago White Sox.



    Rangers: The Rangers open a 10-game, 11-day trip that will take them to the
    All-Star break when they play Thursday night at Detroit. Texas also plays at
    Boston and Baltimore before their next home game July 20.







    Aaron Nola was the man Gabe Kapler wanted on the mound with Manny Machado at
    the plate and the tying run on third base.



    It was the right move.



    Nola stuck out nine in seven splendid innings, Nick Williams hit a two-run
    homer and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-1 Wednesday to
    sweep a two-game interleague series.





    Nola (11-2) gave up one run and seven hits to win his fifth straight
    decision.



    He escaped a jam on his 103rd pitch when second baseman Cesar Hernandez made
    an outstanding, over-the-shoulder running catch on Machado’s shallow fly to
    right with two outs and runners on first and third.



    ”That’s awesome,” Nola said of the play.



    Kapler, who was heavily criticized for pulling Nola after 68 pitches in the
    season opener at
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    , visited the mound before letting his ace face
    Machado with a 2-1 lead.



    ”We knew he was the best option,” the first-year manager said. ”He always
    makes us feel confident.”



    Nola said he would’ve lobbied to stay in but didn’t have to say anything
    other than he felt fine.



    ”I want to go deep in the game,” he said. ”I want to get through that
    inning.”



    After five consecutive losing seasons, the Phillies are on the rise under
    Kapler. They pulled within 1 1/2 games of NL East-leading Atlanta and moved 10
    games over .500 for the first time since finishing the 2011 season with a
    franchise-record 102 wins.



    ”It’s a nice milestone, one we can celebrate,” Kapler said.



    Making his second career start and third appearance, Orioles right-hander
    Yefry Ramirez (0-2) retired 13 of his first 14 batters before running into
    trouble in the fifth. Ramirez gave up two runs – one earned – and one hit in
    five innings.



    ”I was really proud of Yefry. You couldn’t ask for much better,” Orioles
    manager Buck Showalter said.



    Williams connected off David Hess in the seventh, sending a 409-foot shot
    into Philadelphia’s bullpen in right-center and extending the lead to 4-1.



    Victor Arano tossed two scoreless innings for his first career save.



    Ramirez didn’t allow a hit until Scott Kingery ripped a one-out double to
    left in the fifth. Williams, who walked, advanced to third on the hit.



    Jorge Alfaro followed with a grounder down the first-base line. Chris Davis
    moved a few steps to his
    left Womens
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    , took his eyes off the ball to look at Williams
    running halfway down the line, and the ball knuckled under his glove. Both
    runners scored on the error.



    Adam Jones lined an RBI double to left-center in the third, giving the
    Orioles a 1-0 lead.



    WELCOMING MANNY



    For the second straight day, fans clapped each time Machado was introduced.
    They also chanted ”We want Manny!”



    The three-time All-Star is set to become a free agent after the season and
    the Phillies are among the teams interested in acquiring him before the
    non-waiver trade deadline on July 31 or signing him in the offseason.



    Machado told reporters before the game he wants to play shortstop wherever he
    goes and he wouldn’t be surprised if Philadelphia aggressively pursued him.
    Phillies team president Andy MacPhail held the same position in Baltimore when
    the Orioles selected Machado No. 3 overall in the 2010 amateur draft.



    TRAINER’S ROOM



    Orioles: OF Joey Rickard was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to replace OF
    Colby Rasmus, who was placed on the restricted list before Tuesday night’s
    game.



    Phillies: RHP Jerad Eickhoff was scheduled to throw another live batting
    practice at Single-A Clearwater. Eickhoff has nerve issue in fingers and hasn’t
    pitched this season.



    UP NEXT



    Orioles: RHP Andrew Cashner (2-8, 4.48 ERA) starts the opener of a four-game
    series at Minnesota on Thursday night. Cashner had a 3.21 ERA in five starts in
    June but didn’t earn a win.



    Phillies: Nick Pivetta (5-7, 4.66 ERA) takes the mound at Pittsburgh for the
    start of a three-game series on Friday. Pivetta earned the win in a scoreless
    inning of relief in Philadelphia’s 13-inning victory over Washington last
    Sunday.