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TEX@HOU: Rangers finish off Astros with DP

HOUSTON -- Considering they're last in the National League in home runs and were trailing by one run late in the game, the Astros were going to be aggressive. Finding a way to get the potential tying run into scoring position in the eighth and ninth innings Wednesday night was paramount to manager Brad Mills.

What's the old cliché about best-laid plans going awry?

Astros streak-of-lightning center fielder Michael Bourn, who always has the green light, was thrown out trying to steal second base in the eighth inning, and Carlos Lee was gunned down at second base on a foiled hit-and-run to end the game an inning later.

And with that, the Astros reached the midpoint of the season with a 3-2 loss to the Rangers that was their fifth in a row and eighth consecutive at Minute Maid Park -- the club's longest home losing streak since a franchise-record 11-game skid in 1966 at the Astrodome.

"Home is a place where you want to be able to get yourself right," Mills said. "Right now, we're going through a tough time, there's no doubt about it, but the guys are battling through it."

The Astros, who are 28-53 at the 81-game mark, are 1-8 in their past nine games and 5-19 since June 3. They have also lost eight in a row at home to the Rangers, who clinched the Lone Star Series for the fifth year in a row and will take the Silver Boot back to Arlington.

"You can say the same thing over and over and over, but we as a team, we're going to keep fighting," Bourn said. "That's all you can do."

Astros starter Brett Myers (3-7) gave up a pair of solo home runs to Ian Kinsler and still managed to deliver his ninth quality start by going seven innings. He kept the Astros in a game that was controlled early on by Rangers starter Colby Lewis, who retired the first 11 batters he faced and 19 of the first 21.

Trailing, 3-2, Bourn led off the eighth with a single against left-handed reliever Darren Oliver and was immediately thinking about stealing second. The league's leader in stolen bases had a terrific jump on a pitch Jeff Keppinger fouled off, and he broke for second again on the next pitch. Oliver threw to first behind Bourn, who was a sitting duck at second.

"It's tough, because I've never seen his move before," Bourn said. "He did a good job of being able to choose when I was going to go. I had him once, but Keppy had to foul it off because he had two strikes, of course. He came back and picked again and I was going again, trying to go to second and get something started. He got me. I give him credit. That was a big out to me. We had the top of the lineup coming up, but I had to try to get to second."

Lee drew a leadoff walk against hard-throwing Rangers closer Neftali Feliz in the ninth and was still at first after Matt Downs -- who hit a two-run, ninth-inning homer off Feliz a week earlier -- struck out swinging against some serious heat.

Mills put on a hit-and-run on a 3-2 pitch with Brett Wallace at the plate, but he swung through a fastball, and catcher Yorvit Torrealba threw out Lee at second to end the game.

"Wally has done a pretty good job of putting the bat on the ball," Mills said. "We wanted to make sure -- hopefully he did make contact -- we had a guy at second base, the tying run at second base."

Torrealba admitted he was surprised at the call.

"With Carlos Lee at first and the guy on the mound throwing 90-plus [mph], there is a good chance that he is going to get a strikeout," he said.

Lee swatted a solo homer with one out in the seventh to cut the Rangers' lead to 3-1, and Downs followed with a double into the left-field corner. After Wallace struck out, Clint Barmes dropped a single into right field to score Downs and get the Astros within one.

Carlos Corporan followed with a double into the right-field corner. Barmes took an aggressive turn rounding third and was held up by third-base coach Dave Clark and wound up being stranded when pinch-hitter Jason Michaels grounded out against Oliver.

"The guy fielded the ball cleanly off the wall there and got it in," Mills said. "Where we're at, I don't have a problem with that. We can sit here and debate that, but Clarky's so good over there, and he didn't think he had a chance to make it."

Neither did Rangers manager Ron Washington.

"He would have been dead," he said. "If he had sent him, he would have gotten blown up at home plate. I wish he would have sent him. It would have ended the inning right there. Dave Clark is a good third-base coach. Whichever way he decided would have worked out for us."

Lewis retired the first 11 batters he faced -- Hunter Pence got the Astros' first hit with a two-out single in the fourth -- and 17 of the first 18. He threw 25 pitches through three innings, a whopping 23 for strikes. Lewis (7-7) allowed six hits and two runs and struck out six batters in 6 2/3 innings.

"It's kind of tough when you've got a guy like that going out there," Lee said. "You're always finding yourself behind in the count, and instead of being aggressive, now you're protecting. That guy did a good job today." Comments