ARLINGTON -- Fresh off his All-Star selection before the game, Yu Darvish had his worst start of the season against the Astros on Saturday. The Rangers' ace gave up a crucial walk to the last batter he faced, and that led to his first career defeat to Houston in a 9-5 loss at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Tied at 4, Jose Altuve drew a five-pitch walk to lead off the seventh, knocking Darvish out of the game in a righty-righty situation. It was the 25th time Darvish allowed a leadoff walk, tied for second most in the American League.
"I should've been a little bit more aggressive," Darvish said through an interpreter. "Not just this outing, but also the last outing I think I threw too many fastballs. I think I'm a breaking ball pitcher, and I think I should've thrown more breaking balls."
Rangers manager Ron Washington turned to left-handed reliever Robbie Ross with four left-handed hitters due up for the Astros, but Ross couldn't keep the game tied. He hit Brett Wallace in the arm, then gave up a three-run home run to All-Star catcher Jason Castro to put Houston up, 7-4. Ross didn't allow a home run in his first 35 games, but he's given up three in his last five outings. All three home runs in that stretch have been against left-handed hitters, against whom Ross allowed just one home run last year.
"I feel great, it's just frustrating," Ross said. "It's not fun when guys battle back and you do something like that. It's frustrating, especially against left-handers. Those are the guys I'm supposed to get out. Hopefully I can bounce back and get some outs."
Darvish allowed five runs on six hits in six-plus innings, dropping to 8-4 this season. He allowed a total of five earned runs in three previous starts against the Astros.
"It's obvious looking at today's performance, I didn't perform like an All-Star," Darvish said.
Houston took a 2-0 lead in the fourth on Brandon Barnes' home run to left with two outs. Darvish ran into trouble with two outs again in the fifth, allowing two walks and two singles. Marc Krauss drove in two runs on a single to extend the Astros' lead to 4-0.
"He's an All-Star pitcher, he's got great stuff," Krauss said. "Today, I don't know if he wasn't feeling that great, but he seemed to be kind of falling behind guys, leaving balls up in the zone, and we were able to hit a few and get to him a little bit."
The Rangers' offense retaliated in the sixth to tie the game. They started the inning with consecutive singles to knock out Dallas Keuchel. Mitch Moreland drove in the first run on a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded. Geovany Soto tied the game on a three-run shot to left-center field with two outs off reliever Wesley Wright. Soto had just eight hits in his previous 55 at-bats before his fourth home run of the season. It was his first hit with runners in scoring position since May 16 against the Tigers' Justin Verlander. Keuchel received a no-decision, allowing two runs on six hits in five-plus innings.
After the Astros' three-run seventh, All-Star outfielder Nelson Cruz trimmed the deficit to 7-5 with a solo shot to center field. Travis Blackley relieved Josh Fields on the next at-bat, pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings to record his first win this season.
AL Final Vote candidate Tanner Scheppers allowed a two-run home run to Jake Elmore in the eighth. It was Elmore's first career home run, giving the Astros a 9-5 lead. Scheppers has now allowed six runs (five earned) in his last six outings.
"It definitely hasn't been smooth lately," Scheppers said. "The game of baseball can humble you quickly. I have to make adjustments, because obviously they are. My body feels fine. Everything feels fine. I've got to make better pitches."
The Rangers have now lost four of their last seven games, snapping a six-game winning streak over the Astros in the process.
Jurickson Profar made his first career outfield start in the loss. He made a diving grab in left field in the third to get Darvish out of the inning with a runner on second.
Master Tesfatsion is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.