Arlington, TX – Nelson Cruz delivered a tie-breaking RBI single in the fifth inning and the Texas Rangers bullpen kept the Houston Astros off the board the rest of the way to earn a 5-4 decision in the rubber match of a three-game series between the AL West foes.
Cruz's hit off Houston starter Erik Bedard snapped a 4-4 deadlock, and five Texas relievers combined for a scoreless inning apiece to protect the one-run lead.
Cory Burns (1-0), recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City earlier in the day, registered his first major league victory by working out of a jam in the top of the fifth, while Joe Nathan retired the side in order in the ninth for the All-Star closer's 29th save of the season.
The Rangers also received a pair of homers, a three-run blast from A.J. Pierzynski and a solo shot by Adrian Beltre, in the triumph.
"I was able to go to the cage the last couple days and really focus on some stuff and make some minor adjustments," Pierzynski said of his recent struggles. "Obviously it's nice to be rewarded with it."
Marc Krauss hit his first big league homer, a two-run shot against Texas starter Justin Grimm in the second inning, for Houston. J.D. Martinez finished 3-for-4 with an RBI single.
Bedard (3-5) worked 6 1/3 innings and surrendered all five runs -- four earned -- while walking five and striking out four.
"I thought that Erik did a great job just battling through all the conditions in which he battled through," Astros manager Bo Porter said of his starter. "I felt like we had some chances offensively, just wasn't able to come up with the big hit."
The Rangers took advantage of an error by Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, who mishandled Ian Kinsler's grounder to begin the bottom of the fifth, to score an unearned run and forge ahead. Elvis Andrus then drew a walk against Bedard to bring up the red-hot Cruz, who ripped a single to left that allowed Kinsler to race home without a throw.
Houston managed just two singles and struck out five times against the combo of Joakim Soria, Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts before Nathan slammed the door with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Houston had pulled even by putting up single runs in both the fourth and fifth innings. Martinez's two-out base hit brought in Carlos Corporan, who began the fourth with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch, to cut the deficit to 4-3, while Pierzynski's off-target throw while attempting to pick off Brandon Barnes at third sailed into left field to enable the tying run to score a frame later.
Burns relieved Grimm with runners at the corners and no one out in the fifth and kept the contest tied by inducing an infield popup from Altuve, then getting a fanning Brett Wallace swinging as Jake Elmore was thrown out trying to steal second by Pierzynski.
Bedard was able to shake off a very shaky opening inning in which he walked a pair of batters and later served up Pierzynski's blast into the home bullpen that quickly staked Texas to a 3-0 lead.
Krauss followed a walk to Carlos Pena with a drive over the wall in straightaway center that brought the Astros within a run in the second, but Beltre hammered a Bedard cutter into the left-field seats an inning afterward to put the Rangers up by a 4-2 margin.
Grimm lasted just four-plus innings and allowed four runs -- three earned -- on six hits.
Soria made his first major league appearance since Sept. 11, 2011 while with Kansas City. The former All-Star closer underwent Tommy John surgery in April of last year and was activated from the 60-day DL prior to the game ... Texas placed designated hitter Lance Berkman, who injured his hip in Saturday's loss to Houston, and starting pitcher Nick Tepesch (elbow) on the 15-day DL to make room for Soria and Burns ... Cruz went 5-for-12 with two homers and six RBI during the series and has hit safely in 14 straight games against the Astros ... Beltre's homer extended his hitting streak to nine games ... Houston has now dropped 11 of the last 13 matchups between the clubs dating back to last season.