ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The displaced Houston Astros keep reminding themselves of what’s really important.
The AL West leaders lost another game to the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night, but news that they are returning home for the weekend to check on family and help victims of Hurricane Harvey gave them a lot to feel good about after the 8-1 setback.
“I can’t wait,” manager A.J. Hinch said after Rangers right-hander Andrew Cashner pitched eight strong innings and Mike Napoli hit a three-run homer for Texas.
The teams conclude a three-game series relocated to St. Petersburg on Thursday.
“I want to win a game before,” Hinch said in anticipation of boarding a plane as soon as possible. “It will be a happy flight and an even happier landing.”
A crowd of 6,123 — up from 3,485 the previous night for the opener of the series at Tropicana Field — watched Cashner (8-9) limit the Astros to three hits, one after the second inning.
Napoli’s homer off Dallas Keuchel (11-3) capped a six-run fourth inning for Texas, which has won two straight following a three-game skid.
“Very impressive,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said of Cashner, who won for the first time in nearly a month.
Houston’s third loss in four games, meanwhile, was overshadowed by the announcement that the Astros will fly to home to face the New York Mets this weekend.
After an unscheduled day off, they’ll play a doubleheader Saturday and afternoon game Sunday against the Mets.
” think it’s going to mean a lot. We’re hoping that’s the case,” Keuchel said.
“The first thing that comes to mind is safety. If it’s not completely safe, then we don’t want a lot of people risking to come out,” the All-Star lefty said. “But if it is, we’re going to do everything in our power to win some ballgames and cheer some people up, for sure.”
Hinch broke the news to relieved players at an afternoon meeting. In addition to reuniting with family and friends, many of them plan to spend part of Friday assisting people affected by the storm.
Returning to Minute Maid Park figures to be emotional.
“I know it will be a warm welcome. … You never know how much home means to you until you’re not allowed to go home,” Hinch said, adding it’s difficult to anticipate exactly what the scene will be like Saturday.
“Our attention is still going to be centered around the city and all the devastation that’s going on,” the manager added. “If we can provide any sort of relief, or any sort of escape, or any part of a distraction away from what’s going on, I think that’s going to be part of it.”
Keuchel retired 10 in a row to begin the game before Texas broke through for six runs within a span of six batters. Joey Gallo drew a bases-loaded walk, Carlos Gomez delivered a two-run single and Napoli capped the surge with his 28th homer of the season.
Cashner, meanwhile, shut the Astros down after giving up a single, double and Carlos Beltran’s sacrifice fly in the second inning. The right-hander allowed two baserunners after that, one of them on an error.
Ricky Rodriguez finished the combined four-hitter, giving up an infield single to Jose Altuve in the ninth.
The loss dropped Keuchel to 2-3 over seven starts since returning from a stint on the 15-day disabled list due to neck discomfort. The Astros ace allowed six runs, five hits, three walks and struck out seven over six innings.
Rangers: LHP Jake Diekman, continuing a comeback from three abdominal operations, pitched a scoreless inning for Double-A Frisco on Tuesday. In six rehab outings with Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock, he’s allowed one earned run in 6 1/3 innings.
Astros: SS Carlos Correa, on the 10-day disabled since July 18 due to a torn ligament in his left thumb, is expected to make two more minor league rehab starts before being activated as early as Sunday against the Mets. … 1B Yuli Gurriel left in the fifth inning with a sore right knee. X-rays were negative, and Hinch said he’s day-to-day.
Right-hander Nick Martinez (3-5, 5.26 ERA) starts the series finale for the Rangers. The Astros counter with right-hander Collin McHugh (2-2, 3.63).
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