Silver medal: Astros lose Lone Star Series
Banks struggles in debut as three-game win streak ends
ARLINGTON -- The little momentum the Astros gained the past few days went sailing around the left-field foul pole in the fourth inning Saturday afternoon, on the back of a three-run homer by Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler.
Kinsler's homer off starter Josh Banks broke open a tie game and sent the Rangers to a 7-2 win at sizzling Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, enabling Texas to clinch the Lone Star Series and win the Silver Boot for the fourth consecutive year.
The only thing hotter than the Rangers, who have won 12 of 13 games, was the weather, which hovered in the upper 90s for most of the game. Still, succumbing to the sweat in the Texas heat was no excuse for the Astros, who had their three-game winning streak snapped.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
"The heat was fine," Banks said. "It didn't have anything to do with the way I pitched today. It was just one of those days."
Banks, making his first Major League start of the season in place of injured starter Felipe Paulino, gave up eight hits, four walks and six earned runs in four-plus innings. It was his first big league start since July 17, 2009, when he was a member of the San Diego Padres.
"He battled through a lot of things," said Astros manager Brad Mills. "He gave us an outing that at least kept us in the ballgame and gave us a chance to win."
Left-fielder Jason Michaels gave the Astros a 2-1 lead in the fourth with a two-run homer to left field off Texas starter C.J. Wilson, but the Rangers scored four times in the bottom of the inning. Max Ramirez tied the game with an RBI double and Kinsler homered three batters later to extend the Rangers' lead to 5-2.
"It was fun being able to jog around the bases instead of running," Kinsler said. "But I'm not worried too much about hitting home runs because of the guys behind me. I've got two of the best sluggers in the game hitting behind me."
Texas banged out 15 hits off four Houston pitchers, with every starter getting at least one poke. Josh Hamilton extended his hitting streak to 20 games, Elvis Andrus had his fourth consecutive multi-hit game and Kinsler snapped a career-long 32-game homerless drought with his game-changing blast.
"There's no breaks, but there's no breaks in many big league lineups," Banks said. "You've got to be on top of your game and today, obviously, I wasn't that sharp."
Banks escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning and stranded a pair of runners in the second. The Astros, who managed just five hits -- two each by Jason Bourgeois and Michaels -- wasted some early chances, too.
"I thought it might catch a groove here or there, but I wasn't able to get ahead and locate like I normally do," Banks said. "I'm not a person that's going to overpower the other team, so I need to locate and get ahead and make them hit my pitch. I've got to work on that, and hopefully I'll be a little better next time."
Houston had two hits and a walk among the first four batters of the game, but Jeff Keppinger's 6-4-3 double play helped keep the club off the board. Lance Berkman hit into an inning-ending double play in the third with runners at the corners.
"We couldn't put the nail in the coffin, so to speak, and really take advantage of those chances," Mills said. "At home, we were able to swing the bats pretty well against [Wilson] and be able to do that, but today we weren't."
Wilson (6-3) gave up five hits, four walks and two runs in seven innings. After giving up a two-run homer to Michaels in the fourth that gave the Astros their brief lead, Wilson gave up one hit in his final 3 2/3 innings of work. Michaels' two-out double in the sixth was the Astros' only hit in the final five innings.
"He was throwing all of his pitches and able to throw them all for strikes and keep us off balance," Michaels said. "I think we made him throw some pitches, but we didn't get enough guys in."
Andrus added a two-run single in the fifth off Astros reliever Gustavo Chacin.
"[Banks] didn't quite have the command today that I think he had displayed to us in Spring Training and definitely the way he has been throwing the ball in Round Rock, but with all the conditions, it probably might have something to do with it," Mills said.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.