ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Jose Altuve homered his first three times up, starting with a pair off All-Star right-hander Nathan Eovaldi in his return from the injured list, and the Houston Astros pummeled the Texas Rangers 14-1 on Tuesday night.
Altuve greeted Eovaldi with a leadoff homer, then ended the pitcher’s first outing since July 18 with another drive into the seats in left field on the 35th pitch with one out in the second.
The third homer — and 15th of the season for Altuve — was to center field off Dane Dunning, a starter who came out of the bullpen so the Rangers could get Eovaldi back on the mound without a rehab appearance coming off a right forearm strain.
Martín Maldonado hit two homers and slugger Yordan Alvarez connected for his 24th as the defending World Series champion Astros set a Globe Life Field record with six long balls while wrapping up a third consecutive series win over the Rangers.
Texas, which hasn’t had a winning season since 2016, has lost 14 of 18 games and is two back in the AL West for the second time since a run of 140 consecutive days atop the division ended in late August.
Altuve homered in four consecutive at-bats going back to Houston’s 13-6 win in the series opener Monday. The run ended with a groundout against Dunning in the fifth. Altuve struck out in the seventh.
Houston’s star second baseman homered twice in the series opener, giving him consecutive multi-homer games for the first time in his career. He was the first Astro to do that since Richard Hidalgo in 2000.
The Astros had back-to-back homers from the No. 9 and leadoff spots twice in the series opener with Mauricio Dubón and Altuve. They did it again in the third inning with Maldonado’s two-run shot and the third solo blast from Altuve, which put Houston up 9-0 and capped a third consecutive three-run inning.
Framber Valdez (11-9) allowed one run on six hits with four walks and four strikeouts in seven innings. The All-Star left-hander ended a three-game losing streak against the Rangers.
Eovaldi (11-4) allowed four runs while getting four outs, with José Abreu and Chas McCormick driving in a run apiece in the first inning. It was expected to be a short outing since Eovaldi hadn’t faced live hitters since Aug. 21.
Eovaldi was leading the AL in ERA and tied for the league lead in wins when he went on the injured list following a victory in a start against Tampa Bay seven weeks ago.
DEJA VU FOR HISTORY
Austin Hedges became the first position player in Texas Rangers history to pitch in consecutive games. The catcher, throwing pitches ranging from 47.6 to 54.1 mph, recorded a scoreless the ninth after getting the final two outs without allowing a baserunner in the series opener.
Astros: RHP Ryne Stanek said he expected to miss at least a couple of weeks after injuring his right ankle covering first base in the ninth inning of the series opener. He said the ankle wasn’t broken, and was waiting for what an MRI would show.
Rangers: RHP Josh Sborz went on the 15-day injured list with a left hamstring issue. The move came a day after Sborz allowed six runs while getting just one out in the 13-6 loss in the series opener.
Three-time Cy Young Award winners Justin Verlander of Houston and Max Scherzer of Texas are set to pitch against each other for the first time in their long careers in the series finale. They are the active leaders in strikeouts and hold two of the top three spots among active pitchers in victories.
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