By Kristie Rieken
The Associated Press
HOUSTON — A day after watching Yu Darvish come within one out of a perfect game, Alexi Ogando was determined to pitch well to help the Texas Rangers wrap up the three game series against Houston with a win.
Ogando got things started well and four Texas relievers finished it off to shut out the Astros again, combining for a five-hitter in the Rangers’ 4-0 win over the Astros on Wednesday.
“It was a spectacular game, and it certainly motivated me to pitch well today,” Ogando said in Spanish through a translator.
Lance Berkman doubled in a run for the Rangers a day after they blanked Houston 7-0 behind Darvish’s nearly historic gem.
It is the first time the Rangers have pitched consecutive shutouts since they had three straight in July 2011.
Ogando (1-0) allowed four hits with a career-high 10 strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings. The young and inexperienced Astros have struck out 43 times in their first three games.
“Ogando is known for striking folks out,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “He had a good fastball, he has a tremendous slider and now he’s got a changeup and a curveball to go with all of that.”
It’s the most strikeouts a pitching staff has combined for in the first three games of a season in major league history, and the most since Cleveland fanned 42 in the first three of the 1966 season.
“Yesterday, it was more about their guy, and today it was more about our guys,” Houston manager Bo Porter said when asked about the strikeouts. “We just had our guys expanding the zone way too often. We need to make an adjustment and do a better job. The fastballs that we had an opportunity to do something with, we either fouled them off or didn’t get them (in play).”
The Rangers are also the fourth team in major league history since 1916 to start the season by striking out 10 or more batters in each of their first three games.
Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Michael Kirkman allowed one hit combined in the next 1 2-3 innings. Closer Joe Nathan struck out the side in the ninth.
Houston starter Philip Humber (0-1) yielded five hits and a run in 5 2-3 innings in his Astros debut.
Nelson Cruz and A.J. Pierzynski had two hits apiece and drove in a run each for the Rangers.
Ogando returned to the rotation this season after spending last year in the bullpen, where he had a career-high 58 relief appearances.
He retired nine straight Astros before Carlos Pena singled with two outs in the sixth inning. Chris Carter lined out to end that inning, and Houston’s next hit, a one-out single in the seventh by Justin Maxwell, chased Ogando.
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