HOUSTON (AP) – Cole Hamels certainly is proud of the longest winning streak in his career.
The Texas Rangers lefty also knows if wouldn’t have happened without the powerful hitters he has backing him up.
Hamels fanned a season-high 11 in eight sparkling innings and the Rangers jumped on Dallas Keuchel early, cruising to an easy 9-2 win over the Houston Astros to complete a three-game sweep Sunday.
The Rangers have taken six in row from Houston and 14 of 16. The Astros have lost four straight overall.
Hamels (5-0) has won a career-best 12 straight decisions dating to last year. He allowed five hits and two runs – one earned – in his longest start this season to lower his ERA to 2.83.
“I’ve been very fortunate with the runs,” Hamels said. “Earlier in my career, I wasn’t used to ever getting runs. To play for a team that has such an incredible offense, I know that I don’t have to really worry about coming out of a game because of a lack of runs or giving up a run.”
“You just plug away and know that we’ve got tremendous defense and the offense is going to try to score as much as possible,” he said.
Nomar Mazara hit an RBI single during a five-run third against Keuchel (2-6) and added a two-run homer to pad the lead in the seventh.
Keuchel continues to struggle in the follow-up to his 20-win season. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner allowed nine hits and seven runs in six innings, extending his skid to five games.
It’s his longest losing streak since he dropped a career-high seven in a row as a rookie in 2012.
“I just have to be mentally tougher,” Keuchel said. “I’ve got to make a big pitch with two outs and get us out of some jams. I’m doing it to myself and that’s just the way it’s going right now. But I’ll get out of it and we’ll be better because of it.”
Bobby Wilson and Adrian Beltre each drove in two runs for the Rangers. Evan Gattis hit a solo home run.
Keuchel retired his first six batters before running into trouble in the third. Things got off to a bad start in that inning when he plunked Ryan Rua. A double by Wilson, which bounced off the wall in center field, scored Rua to make it 1-0.
Keuchel struck out the next two batters before an RBI single by Ian Desmond. Prince Fielder drew a walk before a two-run double by Beltre made it 4-0. Mazara followed with his run-scoring single.
Manager Jeff Banister was impressed by the damage his team did with two outs.
“It’s an approach that we talked about all winter long, spring training,” he said. “When we get to those situations we’ve got to be a bully in the box and capitalize on those situations. Those are a backbreaker for a team when you continue to capitalize with two outs.”
The Astros had managed just one hit against Hamels before Gattis connected on an 85 mph changeup for his homer with two outs in the sixth.
Rangers: Yu Darvish (Tommy John surgery) is scheduled to make his fifth start for Triple-A Frisco on Sunday. If he comes out of that OK, he’ll make his first major league start since Aug. 9, 2014 on Saturday against Pittsburgh after missing all last season following his surgery.
Astros: OF Carlos Gomez (bruised left ribcage) is expected to begin a rehabilitation assignment with Double-A Corpus Christi on Tuesday. He’ll play a few games there, getting some work in center field and as the designated hitter.
Rangers: Derek Holland (3-3, 5.62) will start when Texas begins a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday. Holland will look to end a two-game skid and pick up his first win since April 30.
Astros: Houston has a day off on Monday before Doug Fister (4-3, 4.22) starts on Tuesday in the opener of a three-game series against Baltimore. Fister will look for his fourth straight win in what will be his eighth start.