HOUSTON (AP) — For the first time in years, Houston Astros fans are seeing the kind of intensity that stems from being in a pennant race.
Rougned Odor homered early, then got into a testy exchange at home plate in the ninth inning that escalated into a shouting match between the managers as the Texas Rangers beat the Astros 7-6 on Saturday night.
After years of losing and being irrelevant in the second half of the season, these Astros remain in contention, 1 1/2 games back in the AL West.
Odor hit a two-run homer in the third and later singled. He came up in the ninth and exchanged words with Houston catcher Hank Conger.
Conger moved toward Odor and Texas slugger Prince Fielder raced from the on-deck circle to push the Astros player out of the way. Both benches and bullpens cleared as Fielder and Houston manager A.J. Hinch jawed in the middle of the scrum.
“If you wondered if games in July matter, that’s probably proof positive that there’s some emotion involved and there’s some intent to win the game,” Hinch said.
There was some pushing before Banister stepped in front of Fielder. Hinch and Rangers manager Jeff Banister engaged in a brief shouting match before order was restored and the game resumed with no ejections.
“Everyone gets shoved in these things; the whole pile moved a couple different times,” Hinch said. “It’s a lot of defending your own turf, defending your own people.”
Banister and Odor declined to discuss specifics of the incident, but Conger shed some light on it.
“I wasn’t too pleased about him taking his time getting in the box and having (Fielder) wait there,” Conger said.
Fielder acknowledged he was simply trying to protect Odor.
“You just don’t want anybody to get hurt, suspensions or anything,” Fielder said. “Stay away from that.”
Houston starter Scott Feldman wasn’t pleased with the actions of the 21-year-old Odor.
“I don’t really know that Odor guy much, but he’s got some good veterans he can learn the game from over there like (Adrian) Beltre and Prince,” Feldman said. “He doesn’t need to act like that.”
Odor followed with a triple to Tal’s Hill in center field and scored on a single by Beltre. Josh Hamilton added an RBI double that extended the lead to 7-4.
Conger hit a two-run homer off Shawn Tolleson with no outs in the ninth. Tolleson retired the next three batters for his 14th save.
Hamilton and Robinson Chirinos also homered for Texas. Carlos Correa homered for Houston.
Colby Lewis (9-4) allowed four hits and two runs in 7 1-3 innings.
Feldman (4-5) gave up nine hits and four runs in 5 2-3 innings in his first start since May 26 following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
Feldman felt good physically, but was disappointed with his performance.
“We’re in a pennant race, though, so it’s not time for me to be pleased with an outing like this,” he said. “I need to go six, seven innings and limit the damage.”
Jon Singleton singled to start Houston’s third before Lewis retired the next 12 in a row, including striking out the side in the fourth.
Hamilton, who finished with three hits, sent an 86 mph fastball by Joe Thatcher into the bullpen in right-center to push the lead to 5-1 in the eighth. It was his first home run since hitting his only two of the season on May 29.
Hamilton began the game in a 0-for-10 rut with just two hits in his last 21 at-bats.
Astros: 1B Chris Carter sat out a day after spraining his ankle. He said the swelling had subsided and he’s hopeful that he can avoid a trip to the disabled list. “There’s a lot of soreness right now,” he said. “The biggest thing is just getting that out and seeing how I feel in a couple of days.”
Coming off his start in the All-Star game, Houston ace Dallas Keuchel (11-4) will oppose Yovani Gallardo (7-8) when the series wraps up on Sunday. Keuchel is tied for the most wins in the American League and his 2.23 ERA is the best in the AL.