HOUSTON -- David Murphy hit a three-run, inside-the-park home run off Astros starter Lucas Harrell to give the Rangers a four-run lead in the third inning on Saturday night. Manager Ron Washington was asked after the game how often he expects his starters to hold a four-run lead."All the time," Washington said. Not this time. Derek Holland, starting for the first time in nine days, instead gave up three home runs in three straight innings and the Astros rallied for a 6-5 victory over the Rangers at Minute Maid Park. "Very frustrating," said Holland, who left the game for a pinch-hitter after five innings. "Especially waiting a whole week to pitch and barely getting through five innings. It's very frustrating. I'm very upset at myself." Holland struggled with his fastball command, which had been much improved in his previous two starts as he appeared to be getting on a roll. But the command disappeared on him Saturday night after the layoff. He declined to blame the layoff, which was designed to give him extra rest. "I'm not one to make excuses," Holland said. "I was prepared. When you get a lead like that, you're supposed to shut it down. Instead, I hardly made it through five innings. Very frustrating." The Rangers, in splitting the first two games with the Astros, have lost 10 of their last 18 games. "Obviously, we're not going to play our best baseball all year long," Murphy said. "You can break it down all you want, but you have a feeling after the game if you've played your best baseball. It's not there tonight. It's not going to happen all the time, but we know we didn't play our best baseball tonight. It's not a good feeling." The Astros, on the other hand, were almost giddy about knocking off their highly regarded neighbors to the north. "It felt like a playoff game," Harrell said after getting the win. "It was good for us, the way the team played and the way we bounced back and we took the lead and the way bullpen pitched." Murphy, who is from the Houston suburb of Spring, hit his home run in the third. The Rangers took a 1-0 lead that inning when Adrian Beltre lined a two-out single to drive home Elvis Andrus from second base. Michael Young then reached on shortstop Jed Lowrie's error, bringing up Murphy. Murphy hit a high drive to deep right-center field. Right-fielder Justin Maxwell and center fielder Jordan Schafer both gave chase. Maxwell made a lunging dive for the ball and missed, just avoiding a collision with Schafer, who jumped over the right fielder while the ball bounded to the wall. Both runners scored and so did Murphy with the 23rd inside-the-park home run in club history. "I saw both guys go for it and I was halfway between first and second," Murphy said. "I knew I had a chance and probably put it into overdrive too soon because I ran out of gas at that end." The Rangers have hit a home run in 13 straight games, one short of the club record. But it was the Astros who won this game with the home run. Houston entered the game with 26 home runs, tied for the fourth fewest in the Majors, and hit three out for the first time in a game this season. Holland gave up a solo shot to Chris Snyder in the third, a two-run shot to Carlos Lee in the fourth and another two-run home run to Maxwell in the fifth. Snyder and Maxwell entered the game with one home run each on the season. "It's obvious I was supposed to put that away," Holland said. "I couldn't get my fastball down, some pitches got away and they hit them." "He couldn't the ball down on his [left] side," Washington said. "He had to come over the middle of the plate, he got it up and those right-handers took advantage of it." The Astros made it 6-4 in the bottom of the sixth on two-out doubles by J.D. Martinez and pinch-hitter Travis Buck off reliever Alexi Ogando.
"We were down, 4-,0 in the third," Snyder said. "That's when I was saying in the dugout, 'There's a lot of ballgame left.' I got the ball rolling, but after there were two more big homers and Buck's pinch-hit was huge and pushed an extra run across and made a big difference."
The Rangers struck back with a run in the top of the seventh when Andrus tripled and scored on Josh Hamilton's sacrifice fly. The Rangers also opened the eighth with singles from Young and pinch-hitter Brandon Snyder. But reliever Brandon Lyon got Nelson Cruz to pop out, Mike Napoli to ground out and pinch-hitter Craig Gentry to fly out."We should have gotten to them there ... we had the chance," said Cruz, who is dealing with some tightness in his right quad muscle. ""We needed to score right there," Washington said. What the manager wanted most was a 4-0 lead to stand up. "That's what we needed more than anything else," Washington said.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.