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HOU@TEX: Carter rips a two-run double to left field

ARLINGTON -- Astros starter Lucas Harrell served up three home runs in Friday's 10-5 loss to the Rangers, but some of the pitches that hurt him the most were simply balls outside the strike zone.

Laboring to find the plate, Harrell walked four Rangers in the first two innings. Three of those walks led to runs -- one on David Murphy's two-run shot in the first inning and two more on Nelson Cruz's grand slam in the second.

Harrell ended on the hook for seven earned runs -- nine total -- but the number that concerned him the most was his bases on balls.

"When you walk six guys, you're going to give up a lot of runs," Harrell said.

Harrell threw 103 pitches, but only 51 strikes, in 3 2/3 innings.

"He just didn't have his fastball command today," manager Bo Porter said, "and against a good-hitting ballclub like this, you fall behind in the count and get into some predictable fastball counts, they're going to put good swings on it."

The Astros also had no answer for coolly effective Rangers starter Nick Tepesch -- at least not until they trailed by 10 and finally rallied for four runs in the sixth inning.

Jose Altuve led off the sixth with a single and scored on Jason Castro's single after Brett Wallace walked. Chris Carter doubled in Wallace and Castro, and Carter scored on J.D. Martinez's single.

"Early on, we expanded our zone a lot," Porter said. "As the game went on, those guys got back to managing their at-bats a little better and got into some better hitting counts and were able to put together some better at-bats and get some runs."

Castro had three hits, Altuve and Martinez each had two, and the Astros' 10 total were their most in a game since June 23. It didn't matter, because Harrell's first start of July wasn't up to his June standards. Harrell had a 3.22 ERA in six starts last month, with 29 strikeouts and only 10 walks in 36 1/3 innings.

In addition to the walks Friday, Harrell allowed home runs to Murphy, Cruz and Adrian Beltre, whose towering two-run shot clanked high off the left-field foul pole and chased Harrell from the game in the fourth.

"He helped us a little bit with a couple walks, but I think a lot of our guys had really good at-bats," Beltre said.

Just before Beltre's at-bat, Wallace dropped what would have been an inning-ending popup to first base from Cruz. Two of the nine runs Harrell surrendered were unearned as a result.

"Any time you allow guys to extend innings, especially a club like this that has several guys in their lineup that can change the game with one swing, you're asking for trouble," Porter said.

Harrell has been streaky this season, with a propensity to mix an occasional blowout in among solid outings. He has allowed six or more earned runs in a game five times this season, but he gave up no more than one earned run in 10 of his 19 starts.

Harrell wasn't thinking about his stronger performances after Friday's game, as he fixated on another loss.

"I haven't been good at all, all year," he said.

Brett Oberholtzer gave Houston the opportunity to mount a charge by yielding only one run in 3 1/3 relief innings, but the big comeback never materialized after the four-run sixth.

The Astros' offense found itself overmatched early by the rookie Tepesch, who recorded a career-high nine strikeouts in five-plus innings. Tepesch allowed four earned runs on seven hits and one walk.

"He was hitting his spots and staying down in the zone," said Carter, who struck out twice against Tepesch. "He has a hard slider and his fastball was cutting, so it was hard to distinguish between the two of them."

Houston has lost six straight games this year to Texas, after beating the Rangers on Opening Night. The Astros have lost 10 of their past 12 games.

"The effort and focus are definitely there -- that goes without question with these guys," Porter said. "We've played some good teams that have played well, and we have not played our best baseball." Comments