ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Chris Carter is hitting under .200 this season for the Houston Astros. Still, he is hitting the ball hard — and deep.
Carter led off two innings with home runs, George Springer had one inning-starting long ball and the Astros beat the Texas Rangers 8-3 on Tuesday night, getting a game closer to escaping the AL West cellar.
The Astros go for a three-game series sweep on Wednesday after winning only twice in 19 games against Texas last season. They have won four straight overall against their instate rival for the first time since 2002.
"It's just nice to beat them this year," Carter said. "They beat up on us pretty bad last year."
Carter started the sixth with a 409-foot blast into the seats in left field to make it 4-2. Two innings later, his 17th homer of the season was almost as long — but just cleared the wall and the outstretched glove of center fielder Leonys Martin for a 6-3 lead.
Nine of Carter's last 17 hits have been homers. It was the third multihomer game this season for the .194 hitter.
"He hits them in bunches. Let's hope this is one of those bunches," manager Bo Porter said. "On the home run to left field, he was getting extension. He's a big, strong man and he's hitting the ball well."
Jose Altuve had two hits, two stolen bases and a sacrifice fly. The All-Star second baseman matched Houston's franchise record with 28 consecutive stolen bases without being caught while pushing his AL-leading total to 41. He leads the American League with 126 hits and a .341 batting average.
Houston went ahead to stay with two runs in the first inning off Phil Irwin (0-1) who was making his Rangers debut.
Brad Peacock (3-5) struck out five while allowing two runs and six hits over 5 2-3 innings.
Except for 21 days, and none past mid-April in either of their two seasons since switching leagues, the Astros have been at the bottom of the five-team AL West. After taking the first two of this three-game set, they are within a game of fourth-place Texas, which has lost nine of its last 10 games — and 17 of 20.
Springer, the rookie center fielder, led off the third with his 18th homer — a 430-foot shot to the hill in center field.
Martin led off the Texas second with his fifth homer before adding a sacrifice fly and a triple. Jake Smolinski had an RBI double in the seventh for his first major league hit.
The Astros loaded the bases with no outs in the first, including Robbie Grossman reaching on a strikeout, before Altuve was picked off third base by catcher Chris Gimenez. Jon Singleton and Matt Dominguez followed with consecutive RBI singles.
Irwin allowed three runs and six hits in four innings. He made a start in April 2013 for Pittsburgh, which waived him earlier this season. The right-hander was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock earlier Tuesday when right-hander Nick Martinez (left side discomfort) was put on the 15-day disabled list.
"It just came down to the first inning ... overthrowing out of the gate," Irwin said. "Just trying to throw it hard, blow it past people. That's not my game."
NOTES: Astros C Jason Castro was out of the lineup for the second straight day because of pain in his left armpit. Castro was able to swing in the batting cage before the game but didn't play. ... Irwin became the 1,000th player in the history of the Washington Senators-Texas Rangers franchise (1961-2014). He was also the 47th player used by the Rangers this season, one more than they used all last year. RHP Roman Martinez made it 1,001 and 48 with two scoreless innings in his major league debut. ... Grossman had an 18-game hitting streak at Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he was before being recalled Tuesday when OF Alex Presley (strained right oblique) was put on the 15-day DL. Grossman, in his third stint in the majors this season, is hitless in his last 28 at-bats for the Astros after going 0 for 4 with a walk. He was the only Houston player without a hit.
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