Morton plunks AL record 4, but Astros beat Rangers 4-3

ARLINGTON, Texas — Charlie Morton couldn’t do much to correct an erratic outing that the Houston right-hander ripped as “bordering on embarrassing.”

George Springer and the Astros found a way to beat the Rangers anyway for a shot at a four-game road sweep of their Texas rivals.

Springer hit a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning after Morton tied an American League record by hitting four batters, and the Astros beat the Rangers 4-3 on Saturday night.

Morton also issued a career-high six walks as the Astros allowed 10 walks, a season high. But the Rangers tied a club record with 17 runners left on base in a nine-inning game, most in the majors without extra innings this season.

“I got away with not knowing where the ball was going,” Morton said. “It’s a pretty unprofessional outing right there, bordering on embarrassing. You hit four guys and walk I don’t know how many more.”

The hard-throwing 34-year-old who had a 10-game winning streak stopped in his previous start gave up two runs without allowing a hit in the second. The only hit Morton surrendered in 3 2/3 innings was a third-inning double from Ronald Guzman that didn’t factor in the scoring.

After hitting Rougned Odor and walking Robinson Chirinos and Guzman in the second, Morton struck out Shin-Soo Choo before Delino DeShields hit a chopper up the middle that second baseman Jose Altuve fumbled for an error as Odor scored. Nomar Mazara followed with a sacrifice fly for an unearned run and a 2-2 tie.

“He just looked out of whack from the very beginning, delivery, timing, execution,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He was doing things that he never does, hitting left-handers with back-foot breaking balls, misfiring on a lot of fastballs. Just the entire game was a fight for him within himself.”

Reliever Brad Peacock hit Isiah Kiner-Falefa with his final pitch in the sixth to break Houston’s franchise record with five hit batters.

The Rangers also set a club record by getting hit five times but the worst hitting team in the majors with runners in scoring position went 1 for 17 in those situations. Texas stranded 12 runners in scoring position. The Astros struck out 10, six of them called.

“It’s not that they weren’t in the fight,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said. “We just didn’t get the hits. It doesn’t feel good, but I’ll continue to take our chances. We put 20 baserunners out there. We continue to do that every night, this offence will find a way to spark.”

Tony Sipp (1-0) struck out the first three hitters he faced in the sixth and seventh, and Hector Rondon got pinch-hitter Adrian Beltre to bounce into a game-ending double play for his second save.

Springer’s go-ahead single landed just in front of a sprinting Joey Gallo in left field against Jose Leclerc (1-2) after Guzman’s RBI single had pulled Texas even in the fifth.

Max Stassi homered leading off the fifth for Houston, and Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel had run-scoring hits in the first.

THAT’LL LEAVE A MARK

According to research from the Rangers, only two other pitching staffs have combined to hit five batters in a game since 2002. Both were in 2017: San Diego against St. Louis and Toronto against Atlanta. In baseball-reference.com archives dating to 1908, the 2001 Angels were the only other team to win a game after hitting at least five batters.

SHORT HOPS

The last AL pitcher to hit four batters in a game was Orlando Hernandez with the Chicago White Sox in 2005. Morton now shares the franchise record with the late Darryl Kile, who hit four against St. Louis in 1996. … Texas’ Jurickson Profar was hit twice in a game for the first time in his career. … Three of Houston’s walks went to Choo, who reached base in his 25th straight game to extend his majors-leading streak. … The Rangers have twice stranded 17 runners in a nine-inning game, most recently in 2007.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: SS Carlos Correa missed a third straight game with soreness on his right side. Manager A.J. Hinch said Correa could be available Sunday if he doesn’t start, and the club is optimistic he will be ready after an off day Monday.

Rangers: SS Elvis Andrus took live batting practice for the second straight day and will begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Frisco on Monday. He broke his right elbow when he was hit by a pitch April 11 against the LA Angels.

UP NEXT

The Astros go for a four-game sweep with LHP Dallas Keuchel (3-8, 4.13 ERA), who is tied for the major league lead in losses. The 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner pitched seven scoreless innings against Texas in his most recent victory May 13. LHP Matt Moore (1-5, 7.47) is 0-3 in six home starts for the Rangers after an NL-leading 15 losses last year with San Francisco.

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