HOUSTON – Kyle Tucker and Martín Maldonado homered, rookie starter J.P. France worked seven solid innings and the Houston Astros beat the Texas Rangers 4-3 on Tuesday night.
The Astros (58-44) moved within a game of the AL West-leading Rangers (59-43). The injury-plagued Astros could see the return of stars José Altuve and Yordan Alvarez on Wednesday when they go for a series sweep and the top spot in the division.
Tucker’s line-drive homer narrowly cleared the wall in right-center, giving Houston a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning.
In the seventh, Maldonado crushed a 93-mph fastball that nearly landed on the train tracks above left-center field, extending the Astros’ lead to 4-1.
In the ninth, Astros closer Ryan Pressly allowed a two-run homer to Mitch Garver that traveled 420 feet to straightaway center field. That cut Houston’s lead to 4-3 before Pressly got Leody Taveras to fly out to the warning track in right field, securing his 24th save.
France (6-3) allowed five hits and two walks while striking out three. France, a 28-year-old right-hander, lowered his ERA to 2.97 and has allowed three earned runs or less in 12 of 14 starts.
“Today, I couldn’t thank the defense enough,” France said. “To have the defense behind me, it’s awesome. I have the reassurance that even if the ball gets put in play, they’re going to make a play on it.”
Texas used reliever Yerry Rodríguez (0-1) as the starting pitcher, marking the first time the Rangers have utilized the opener approach since late last season. Making his first career start, Rodríguez allowed two runs on two hits in two innings, leaving Texas in an early hole.
Lefty Cody Bradford entered in relief of Rodríguez and allowed six hits and two runs in five innings while striking out three.
Astros outfielder Chas McCormick doubled in the second inning, scoring Alex Bregman. McCormick had a pivotal three-run homer in the seventh inning of Monday night’s 10-9 win. Houston scored its second run on a sacrifice fly by Corey Julks that plated José Abreau.
Texas cut Houston’s lead to 2-1 in the sixth inning on a fielding error by Jeremy Peña.
“We gave up a couple runs early, but we fought back hard,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “You love the fight in this club, but we just came up short.”
Peña later redeemed himself defensively by throwing out Marcus Semien on a relay to home plate in the eighth inning. Semien was originally ruled safe, but the Astros successfully challenged the call, and it was overturned.
“They have the angles in New York, so I don’t really know,” Semien said. “I ran as hard as I could, I popped up at home like I always do. It felt OK, but like I said, I don’t have the angles they do.”
Astros manager Dusty Baker called it a “huge play.”
“Cut offs and relays can cost you a lot of games,” Baker said. “That’s one of the few plays that I’ve seen overturned in our favor. That was a huge play in the ballgame.”
Texas: RHP Josh Sborz (shoulder tendinitis) left the club on Tuesday for a rehab assignment at Triple-A Round Rock. Sborz is eligible to come off the injured list on Friday. … Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Rangers recalled RHP Spencer Howard and optioned RHP Alex Speas to Round Rock.
Houston: Both Alvarez (right oblique discomfort) and Altuve (left oblique strain) participated in Tuesday’s batting practice, and both general manager Dana Brown and manager Dusty Baker said there’s a chance the players could be back in the lineup on Wednesday. … RHP José Urquidy (right shoulder discomfort) made a third rehab start on Tuesday night at Double-A Corpus Christi, allowing just one hit and striking out four in four innings.
With Houston clinging to a 4-1 lead in the eighth inning, Rangers power hitter Adolis García nearly hit his 25th homer of the season. With two runners on base, García pulled a 94-mph fastball 400 feet down the left-field line, but it curved sharply left and went foul. García struck out on the next pitch, an 84-mph splitter from Houston reliever Hector Neris.
100 FOR PRESSLY
Closer Ryan Pressly on Tuesday became the fourth reliever in club history to record 100 saves with the Astros. Pressly -- who has recorded all but one of his career saves in Houston -- joined Billy Wagner (225), Dave Smith (199) and Brad Lidge (123) on Astros’ all-time 100 saves list.
In the finale of the three-game series on Wednesday, Houston LHP Framber Valdez (8-6, 2.94 ERA) is scheduled to square off against Texas LHP Andrew Heaney (6-6, 4.58 ERA).
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