ARLINGTON -- There was a first-inning error that wound up leading to two Rangers runs and a missed tag at second base -- or a missed call, as second baseman Jeff Keppinger contends -- that helped Texas keep things alive in the second inning and score three more times.
As far as Astros starting pitcher J.A. Happ is concerned, none of that mattered.
Happ couldn't limit the damage in either of the first two innings, allowing the Rangers to score three runs in both frames and cruise to an 8-3 win over the Astros in the first game of the Lone Star Series on Monday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
"Good pitchers get out of those kinds of things," Happ said. "In the past I have, and I take pride in overcoming those kinds of things. Tonight I couldn't, and it just seems like I've been struggling to a little bit. But, no, I don't think they were that pivotal."
The Rangers, who led 7-0 after three innings, beat the Astros for the 11th time in the past 13 meetings between the two in-state clubs. They have outscored the Astros 43-23 in seven games in Arlington since the start of last season.
Happ (3-9) lost his fifth consecutive decision and is winless in his past seven starts. He allowed a season-high-tying seven runs (five earned) in only 2 2/3 innings -- his shortest outing since throwing one inning in his second start with the Astros last Aug. 4. His nine losses in 15 starts this year equal the amount he had in his career prior to this season in 60 games (44 starts).
"The thing with Happy is we never allowed him to get into his game," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "With the error and then the missed tag at second, we just weren't able to allow him to get into the flow."
Ian Kinsler began the game by reaching on an error by third baseman Chris Johnson and came around to score on an RBI single by Adrian Beltre. Michael Young added an RBI double, and Nelson Cruz brought home a run with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0. Only one of the runs was earned.
Craig Gentry, the Rangers' No. 9-hole hitter, sparked Texas in the second with a one-out single and swiped second base with two outs, successfully avoiding the glove of Keppinger, who contended he applied the tag in time for what would have been the final out.
"The guy made a good slide," Keppinger said. "He got out there pretty good. I can't remember what angle the umpire had or what. I thought I got him and the umpire didn't think so. That's the way it goes in this game. Unfortunately, that was a big turnaround in this game."
Mills went out to argue the play with second-base umpire Mark Ripperger.
"From my angle, it looked like it got him, and I wanted to go out there and get an explanation for it," Mills said. "When we came back, the guys ran up and saw it [on television replay] and came back and said he missed the tag."
Happ couldn't shake off the play. Josh Hamilton tripled off the wall in left-center field to score Gentry and Elvis Andrus, who had walked with one out, to put the Rangers ahead 5-0. Hamilton trotted home on Beltre's single.
"That's what you have to do sometimes," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Everybody knows we're capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark, but it makes us a little tougher when we can string hits together like that."
Rangers starter Derrick Holland (6-2) held the Astros to six hits and three runs in 7 1/3 innings to improve to 3-0 at home this year. He didn't allow a batter to reach base with two outs until issuing a walk to Clint Barmes in the seventh inning.
"He was getting us out, throwing strikes," Keppinger said. "For the most part, he was sitting on the outside corner. He'd show in every once in a while, but he was throwing strikes and getting ahead and didn't fall behind too many hitters. That's just the way it goes."
Astros reliever Aneury Rodriguez, who was removed from the rotation earlier this month, tossed 4 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits. He sent down the final 11 batters he faced before Mitch Moreland hit a tape-measure home run to right field off Mark Melancon to lead off the eighth.
The early 7-0 hole proved to be too much for the Astros to wriggle their way out of. Carlos Lee had a sacrifice fly and Jason Michaels had an RBI single in the fourth and another in the eighth.
"You need to keep doing the little things and when you fall back that much, sometimes guys try to do too much and try to get it back all at once," Keppinger said. "When you fall behind like that, it's really tough. They get the confidence. Their pitcher feels like he can make pitches and he doesn't have to be scared to nibble around the corners. He just came right at us."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.