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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Already assured of their best finish since 2010 thanks to the second-best turnaround in the major leagues this season, the Houston Astros are struggling in the final days.
Nick Martinez pitched 6 2-3 scoreless innings and Robinson Chirinos homered to lead the Texas Rangers to a 2-1 victory over the Astros on Tuesday night, handing Houston its sixth loss in eight games.
The Astros trailed 2-0 in the ninth and nearly tied the score as Dexter Fowler walked, moved to third on Jake Marisnick's double and scored on Matt Dominguez's sacrifice fly. However, Marisnick was stranded on second when Texas reliever Neal Cotts got Jonathan Villar on a game-ending grounder.
"We hung around in that game," said Houston interim manager Tom Lawless, 10-10 since taking over for Bo Porter. "They left 12 guys on base, and we're still in the ballgame 2-0. We just couldn't put anything together offensively until the ninth."
Lawless said his club might be pressing but certainly shows no quit.
"Twenty-seven outs are in that game," he said. "We're going to play 27 outs."
Martinez (5-11) allowed only five hits.
Houston's Brett Oberholtzer (5-13) gave up both runs in the fourth inning, including a 405-foot home run to straight-away center field by Chirinos, his 12th of the season.
"Unfortunately, every inning was pretty stressful," said Oberholtzer, 0-3 against the Rangers this season and 0-4 against them in his two-year major league career. "A lot of base runners put me in a bad situation."
Marwin Gonzalez had a single and a double for the Astros. Jose Altuve, the American League's leading hitter at .345 coming into the game, went hitless in four at-bats.
The Rangers won their third straight and 10th of their last 11 games.
With Altuve leading the league batting race by nine points going into Tuesday's play, Lawless said he'll let Altuve decide how much he plays the rest of the season. Altuve has started all but five games. Lawless said he might give Altuve the last two games off if he has clinched the title by then.
Rookie 1B Jon Singleton struck out twice, dropping his batting average to .168 with 133 strikeouts, and should be in Wednesday night's lineup. Lawless said he wants Singleton to finish the year on a positive note and probably won't have a chance to play much over the weekend against the New York Mets since DH Chris Carter will move to first base.
Astros: RHP Josh Fields (general soreness) and LHP Darin Downs (oblique) remain day to day. Fields last pitched on Sept. 9, Downs on Sept. 19.
Rangers: 2B Jurickson Profar (shoulder) has been shut down for the third time since aggravating a 2010 injury during spring training. General manager Jon Daniels said Profar will undergo physical therapy and rehab work with the hope of being able to throw around early January.
Astros RHP Scott Feldman (8-11) will start Wednesday night's series finale. Feldman has recorded sixth consecutive quality starts. Rangers RHP Lisalverto Bonilla (2-0) will try to become the first Rangers pitcher to win his first three career starts since Alexi Ogando in April 2011. Bonilla took a no-hitter into the fifth inning of his most recent start.
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