Rangers back to .500 after beating Astros

ARLINGTON, Texas —Milton Bradley and Marlon Byrd hit two-run homers early and the Texas Rangers clinched their seventh consecutive series by beating the Houston Astros 6-2 on Saturday night.

The last time the Rangers won seven series in a row was 1999, the season they won their last AL West title. They have won 15 of 21 games in this span, getting back to .500 three weeks after having the worst record in the major leagues.

Bradley homered in the first and Byrd followed an inning later to make it 4-1 against Roy Oswalt (4-4), who had won four straight decisions over six starts since losing his first three starts of the season.

Vicente Padilla (6-2) matched his victory total from last season by winning his fourth consecutive decision over five starts. The right-hander allowed two runs and five hits over seven innings.

After a 16-8 victory in the opener of the Lone Star Series on Friday night, the Rangers (22-22) clinched the series and got to .500 for the first time since they were 5-5 on April 11—the day after they had their only winning record under second-year manager Ron Washington following a doubleheader sweep of Baltimore.

Oswalt left in the seventh after allowing consecutive singles and going to a 2-0 count on the third batter of the inning. The Astros said he had a strained right groin, but the right-hander had thrown 111 pitches (72 strikes).

After Oswalt left, David Murphy and Gerald Laird had consecutive RBI singles — off different relievers—to put the Rangers up 6-2, both runs charged to Oswalt.

Astros switch-hitting slugger Lance Berkman extended his hitting streak to 16 games and matched Pete Rose as the only players since 1956 with 31 hits in a span of 50 at-bats.

After his major league-best 16th homer leading off the fourth, Berkman had a single in the sixth that matched Rose’s 31-of-50 stretch for Philadelphia in 1979. Berkman popped out to end the eighth, but finished 2-for-3 with a walk to raise his season average to .399.

Houston led 1-0 after Kazuo Matsui drew a walk, stole second base and scored on Miguel Tejada’s single in the first.

But Texas went ahead to stay in the bottom of the inning when Josh Hamilton had a two-out single and Bradley followed by pulling an off-speed pitch into the right-field seats. Oswalt immediately pointed to his chest, taking blame for the bad pitch.

Byrd hit his first homer an inning later, and finished 3-for-4 in his first start since coming off the disabled list Wednesday after missing 26 games because of left knee inflammation.

Hamilton, the major league RBI leader, left for a pinch-runner after his single in the fifth. The outfielder was still sore from the tumble he took while almost making a spectacular running catch in center in the first inning Friday night.

Hamilton still went 5-for-5 with two home runs, a triple and five RBIs in Friday night’s game, and was 2-for-3 on Saturday before coming out of the game. Hamilton leads the majors with 49 RBIs (in 43 games) and was tied for the AL lead with 10 homers.