ARLINGTON, Texas – Houston Astros rookie right-hander Lucas Harrell was cruising along against the powerful Texas Rangers.
Then everything fell apart in the sixth inning.
Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer on the next pitch after Adrian Beltre had a two-run single, and the AL West-leading Rangers went on to a 8-3 victory Saturday night after that big inning pushed along by a botched rundown.
"Being a ground-ball guy, that was kind of a product of the way I pitch," Harrell said. "Two weak-hit ground balls through the hole, and it had a snowball effect. Then I made a bad pitch to Cruz."
Craig Gentry and Ian Kinsler had consecutive singles to start the Texas sixth before they advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Elvis Andrus. Then came the defensive play that changed the inning — and the game.
Harrell (6-5) snagged Michael Young's comebacker and had Gentry caught up between third base and home. After the throw to Chris Johnson pursing the runner, the third baseman's toss to catcher Chris Snyder was dropped and allowed Gentry to safely scamper back to third.
"I should have looked him back to third and then gone to first. I was cruising along the whole game, then it was my mistake, going to third with that ball," Harrell said. "I felt I threw the ball well. I was one pitch away from a ground-ball double play."
Beltre and Cruz quickly put the Rangers up 5-3 right after that. Beltre grounded a single through the left side of the infield to cut the deficit to 3-2 before Cruz hit a 431-foot shot deep into the Astros bullpen in left field.
The Astros had a 3-0 lead against right-hander Justin Grimm (1-0), who had thrown his last pitch in his major league debut before the Rangers rallied to make him a winner.
Grimm, whose contract was purchased earlier in the day from Double-A Frisco, allowed six hits and three runs over six innings. The 23-year-old right-hander struck out seven without a walk.
After giving up a two-out solo homer to Jed Lowrie in the first, Grimm struck out five consecutive batters.
Before their second five-run inning in as many nights against Houston, the Rangers had only one runner reach second base against Harrell.
"He had thrown the ball extremely well, then those first two guys got singles on the first pitch," manager Brad Mills said. "Then they got a sacrifice and the fielder's choice we didn't get an out on. We needed to get an out on that."
The Rangers clinched the Silver Boot Trophy for the sixth year in a row, having won four of the first five games this season before the series finale between the Lone Star State rivals Sunday afternoon. They will be division rivals next season when the Astros switch from the National League Central to the American League West.
Houston will get first baseman Carlos Lee back for Sunday's game.
The Astros said after Saturday night's game that Lee (strained left hamstring) was being reinstated from the 15-day disabled list. Infielder Brett Wallace, who started at first base, was sent back to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Another roster move will have to be made before Sunday's game to make a spot for left-hander Dallas Keuchel to make his major league debut. He will start in place of righty Bud Norris (sprained left knee).
Houston led 3-0 in the fifth after Brian Bogusevic had a leadoff double and scored on Justin Maxwell's double before Jordan Schafer's RBI single. Lowrie's 13 homers are the most among major league shortstops.
Jose Altuve had a double in the fourth off the very top of the 14-foot wall in left field. Mills never came out of the dugout to question whether it was a homer, and replays indicated that the umpires got the call right.
Notes: Houston (27-38) dropped a season-high 11 games under .500. The Astros have lost 15 of their last 20 games. ... Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, who live in Dallas and attend several games a year, sat in front-row seats by Nolan Ryan near the Rangers dugout. ...