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HOU@TEX: Kinsler clears the bases with clutch triple

ARLINGTON -- Ian Kinsler, batting with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, had just fouled off a 1-2 curveball from Astros reliever Fernando Rodriguez, getting just enough of it to get it over the backstop and out of play. Rodriguez threw one more curve and Kinsler belted it into the gap in left-center.

Three runs scored and Kinsler raced all the way to third base, sliding headfirst for a triple. Then he celebrated on his knees with two emphatic hand claps and a triumphant gesture toward the Rangers' dugout.

"It seems like lately someone's got to come up with the big hit for us," Kinsler said. "I felt like that was a big hit for us today. It put us in control of the game the way Colby [Lewis] was throwing. I was definitely excited about it."

So were 46,320 who filled the Ballpark in Arlington on Sunday afternoon and watched as the Rangers were held scoreless through five innings by Astros rookie left-hander Dallas Keuchel. But Kinsler's triple in the sixth was the breakthrough that the Rangers needed, and it helped lift them to a 9-3 victory over the Astros.

The Rangers trailed, 1-0, going into the inning before breaking loose with seven runs. The victory was the Rangers' seventh in their last nine games and gave them a sweep of their three-game series with the Astros.

"Ian's triple woke us up," said designated hitter Adrian Beltre, who finished off the sixth-inning rally with a two-run home run. "Somehow this whole homestand we have been waiting for that one big hit before the offense took off. I had a couple opportunities earlier and missed, but Ian had the big hit, and after that, everybody started chipping in."

The three wins over the Astros followed a similar plot. On Friday, the Rangers trailed, 1-0, into the fifth before a five-run rally sent them to a 6-2 victory. On Saturday, they were down, 3-0, into the sixth before another five-run rally carried them to an 8-3 victory.

"We're trying to find a collective flow to our offense," third baseman Michael Young said. "Anytime we get guys on base, we feel like we have a chance to score. As long as we keep getting them out there, we'll find a way to get them home. We're fighting and battling. We're not where we want to be yet, but we're getting there."

Lewis earned the victory by holding the Astros to one run on three hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out 10 while raising his record to 6-5 with a 3.00 ERA. This was his second victory over the Astros this season. He beat them, 6-1, on May 20.

Beginning with that game, Lewis is 3-2 with a 2.25 ERA in his last six starts. In 44 innings, he has walked four and struck out 37.

"It was a tremendous outing," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

But Lewis gave up a run in the fifth on a walk to Jason Castro, a wild pitch and a single by Matt Downs. That left the Rangers trailing, 1-0, to a pitcher who was making his Major League debut.

Keuchel allowed just three hits and four walks through five scoreless innings. Twice the Raners had the bases loaded with two outs and failed to score. Beltre popped out in the third and Kinsler did the same in the fourth, but they both redeemed themselves in the sixth.

Nelson Cruz started off the inning with a single and Astros manager Brad Mills decided Keuchel had gone far enough. Keuchel had thrown 91 pitches and Mills decided to go with Rodriguez, who had allowed two runs in 1 2/3 innings on Saturday.

"He had worked out of bases-loaded jams in the third and fourth inning and had walked the four guys," Mills said. "He had 88 pitches, which is the third highest he's had in the last five or six outings. He's only gone past the sixth inning once. We were getting into a territory that was going to be kind of tough. We were thrilled to death with what he did, and when we start putting him in territory he hasn't been, it's going to make it tough."

Rodriguez started off by walking Mike Napoli, and Brandon Snyder moved the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt. Yorvit Torrealba then lined out to Downs at first base and Craig Gentry worked a walk to load the bases.

That brought up Kinsler, who came through with his three-run triple. Elvis Andrus followed with a walk and, after David Carpenter replaced Rodriguez, Young singled to right. That drove home Kinsler and Andrus scored as well on right fielder Brian Bogusevic's throw to second. Beltre completed the inning with a two-run home run.

The Rangers added a run in each of the seventh and eighth innings, giving them 36 runs over six games in a 5-1 homestand. Of those 36 runs, 22 came across in four big innings, including a five-run sixth during Tuesday's 9-1 win over Arizona.

"I call it that we're grinding and putting pressure on the other team," Washington said. "Today it was Ian who got the triple. We know we're out of sync offensively, but we put up nine runs today. I'm happy with that."

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