ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — When Mauricio Dubón saw he was batting ninth for the Houston Astros in the opener of their pivotal series against the Texas Rangers, he had a message for leadoff hitter Jose Altuve.
“I told him we were going to go back-to-back,” Dubón said.
Altuve gave him a high-five, and then they went out and did just that — twice.
Dubón and Altuve hit consecutive home runs in the sixth and ninth innings as the Astros beat the struggling Texas Rangers 13-6 on Monday.
Rookie catcher Yainer Diaz capped Houston’s big seventh with a three-run shot, and the Astros clinched the season series between Lone Star State rivals who are locked in a tight division race with Seattle.
After being swept over the weekend at home by the New York Yankees, the win got the Astros (78-61) within a percentage point of the Mariners (77-60) for first place in the AL West. Texas (76-61) is in third, but only a game behind even after its 13th loss in 17 games.
“Obviously, we needed a game like this,” said Altuve, who had four hits.
“That was a great win against a great ballclub. Obviously, both of us were fighting for playoff positioning and to make the playoffs,” said Alex Bregman, whose four hits included a two-run single in a three-run fifth after a replay challenge wiped out the back end of a double play. “It was a good way to start the series.”
The Astros went ahead to stay with a six-run seventh. They loaded the bases on a walk and two singles off reliever Josh Sborz (5-7) before José Abreu walked to force in the run that made it 6-5. All-Star shortstop Corey Seager, who homered twice for Texas, then misplayed a grounder for an error that allowed two more runs to score before Diaz hit his 21st homer.
“This guy's been so good out there. I couldn't tell you the last time he's made an error,” Texas manager Bruce Bochy said. “It happens. ... But this guy has played unbelievable baseball. So that wasn't the game.”
There were nine home runs in all, a single-game record at Globe Life Field, which opened in 2020.
Houston became the first team in major league history to have its No. 9 and leadoff batters hit back-to-back homers twice in the same game, according to OptaSTATS. Dubón batted ninth for only the third time this season, with Altuve at the top of the order as usual.
“Ended up doing it twice, so it was pretty crazy,” Dubón said.
Josh Smith homered in the Texas ninth off Ryne Stanek, who later in the inning injured his right foot while covering first base. Stanek remained on the ground after he fell back hard and his foot turned awkwardly. The right-hander was taken off the field on a motorized cart.
Astros manager Dusty Baker said Stanek was still being evaluated.
“I did see the still (photo) afterwards. Boy, that looked ugly,” Baker said. “I’m just hoping nothing is broken and nothing is structurally wrong. We have to see, because he could be out a while.”
Rafael Montero (3-3), the second of six Houston pitchers, worked a perfect sixth.
After Dubón and Altuve first went deep in the sixth off reliever Glenn Otto, the Astros led 5-4. Dubón homered on the next pitch after Diaz struck out and Chas McCormick was caught stealing for a double play. Texas got even when Mitch Garver hit rookie starter J.P. France’s first pitch in the bottom of inning 451 feet into the second deck of seats above the visitors’ bullpen in left-center.
Seattle lost 6-3 at Cincinnati a few minutes before the Astros wrapped up the opener of their final three-game series this season against Texas. The only games either team has left against the Mariners are in the last 10 days of the regular season, seven for Texas and three for Houston.
Garver’s 16th homer came a day after he went deep twice in a four-hit game against Minnesota. ... Seager has 28 homers overall, and his 13 since the beginning of August are the most in the majors during that stretch. He is the AL leader with a .345 batting average. ... Houston has hit back-to-back homers 15 times this season. Altuve has 12 home runs, and Dubón nine.
At 4-13 over their last 17 games, the Rangers matched Colorado for the worst record in the majors since Aug. 16. The Rockies′ 50 wins overall are the fewest in the National League. ... The Labor Day holiday crowd of 39,181 was the 15th sellout for the Rangers this season. At times, it had the feel of a playoff atmosphere, with plenty of Astros fans in the building. “You could tell the amount of support we had. It sounded like it was 50-50,” Baker said.
Texas plans to reinstate All-Star RHP Nathan Eovaldi (11-3) from the injured list Tuesday to make his first start since July 18. He has been out with a right forearm strain, and will return without going on a rehab assignment.
“We'll keep a close eye on him, trust me,” Bochy said.
Astros LHP Framber Valdez (10-9, 3.38 ERA) threw a no-hitter against Cleveland on Aug. 1, six days after he allowed six runs over 3 2/3 innings in a loss the last time he faced the Rangers.
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