HOUSTON -- For additional evidence that even when things appear to be lining up ideally for the snake-bitten Texas Rangers an unfortunate twist follows, one needs only take the eighth inning on Sunday into account.
Houston Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez smacked a game-tying home run in the eighth and second baseman Jose Altuve capped a four-hit performance with a game-winning RBI single as the Astros defeated the Rangers 3-2 at Minute Maid Park and claimed this four-game series.
Dominguez belted his 15th home run of the season off Texas left-hander Neal Cotts (2-8) after Cotts doused an Astros uprising by retiring catcher Jason Castro with the bases loaded to close the seventh. Cotts yielded to right-hander Neftali Feliz three batters later, but Feliz walked left fielder Robbie Grossman prior to his confrontation with Altuve.
Altuve followed with a sharp single to center field, scoring right fielder Jake Marisnick to push the Astros (59-79) in front. Marisnick reached base against Cotts after being hit by a 1-2 pitch. He then swiped second base, and daringly advanced on a groundout to third baseman Adrian Beltre.
"Hit the ball. Put it in play," said Altuve, who finished 4-for-5 with two doubles. "If you are a baseball player and you don't like those situations, you're in the wrong sport."
The Rangers (53-83) finished 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded six baserunners. But their inability to hold a one-run lead with their top two relievers charged with the task was a bit unsettling.
"You've got to take advantage of those (scoring opportunities) and we didn't," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We put ourselves in position to maybe add on and didn't do it. We still had the lead going into the part of the game where we had our two best pitchers in there."
Astros right-hander Chad Qualls notched his 16th save with a perfect ninth inning. Right-hander Jose Veras (3-0) earned the win in relief of left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who posted his fifth quality start of the month yet went 0-2 with a 3.21 ERA in August. Keuchel allowed two runs on five hits and two walks with three strikeouts in seven innings.
"I felt good," Keuchel said. "I just haven't been doing a good job of limiting the opponent to less runs than we score, so that's what the name of the game is on my part.
"My only concern when I go out there and play is to limit the other team to less runs than what we score. In the month of August I really didn't do my job. I'm just thankful we got the win today."
The Rangers scratched across runs against Keuchel in the first and sixth innings, with right fielder Alex Rios (2-for-3, walk) doubling and scoring in the former and delivering an RBI single that scored center fielder Daniel Robertson in the latter. Texas right-hander Nick Martinez allowed one run on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings, but his bullpen failed to hold the 2-1 lead he departed with.
"It's a team game and you want to see the team win but there's always going to be some positives and some negatives to take away from today," Martinez said. "I'm still going to study my outing today and take what I can from it."
Texas fell to 0-4 this season when entering the finale of a four-game series needing a win to split the series.
NOTES: Astros OF Alex Presley will begin a rehab assignment on Monday although the destination of that assignment is unknown. Presley missed his 47th game Sunday, having landed on the 15-day disabled list on July 8 with a right oblique strain. ... Texas was eliminated from the American League West race in its 135th game on Saturday night, marking the third earliest game in franchise history the Rangers were ousted from division title contention. ... Astros 2B Jose Altuve will enter the final month of the season on pace to lead the American League in hits, batting average and stolen bases. OF Ichiro Suzuki (242 hits, .350 average, 56 steals) was the last AL player to accomplish that feat, doing so in 2001 with the Mariners. ... Rangers manager Ron Washington remains undecided on his fifth starter in the rotation. RHP Miles Mikolas was scratched from his start on Saturday with shoulder fatigue, while his replacement, LHP Robbie Ross Jr., has thrown 112 pitches in three days and could use a break.