ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Dallas Keuchel took the mound with the AL's best ERA and was looking for his 18th victory that would get the Houston Astros back into first place in the AL West.
Instead, the left-hander who started for the American League in this year's All-Star Game, had the worst outing of his career and the Astros fell further behind first-place Texas.
Keuchel allowed a career-high nine runs without making it out of the fifth inning Wednesday night as Texas won 14-3 to stretch its AL West lead to 1 1-2 games.
"Our guys are very well aware of where we on in the calendar and what we need to do to make things better. We've come this far. We've earned it," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "We're still having a good time, we're just not enjoying the defeats, but we have some time to correct it and salvage a game tomorrow."
Houston tries Thursday to avoid a four-game sweep.
After winning it its final at-bat the first two games, Texas went ahead to stay with a six-run first against Keuchel (17-8) that included a three-run homer by Mike Napoli and a two-run shot by Rougned Odor.
"They ambushed him early, and it seemed like every ground ball found a hole, every ball in the air went to the wall or out of the park, which is unusual for Dallas," Hinch said.
Keuchel's ERA rose from 2.22 to 2.56 after his 4 2-3 innings. He struck out five without a walk while giving up three home runs, matching a career high.
Prince Fielder put the Rangers ahead with an RBI single before scoring on Napoli's homer, then added two long home runs — pulling both into the second deck in right field.
"I knew they were going to be aggressive. I thought I made a few quality pitches there, but they put some good swings on some two-seams early. Kind of got me in a hole," Keuchel said. "I was trying to be aggressive to their aggressiveness."
The Astros are 2-7 on their season-long 11-day trip that wraps up with the series finale at Texas. After that, they play their final nine home games of the regular season, including three more games against the Rangers from Sept. 25-27.
Texas, which had a season-high five homers, looks for the sweep before a three-game weekend series at home against Seattle.
"We can't let up now, we've still got games to play," Fielder said.
"Complete focus and determination. This was a build-up getting to this point," manager Jeff Banister said. "This is not an exhale moment. This is putting a foot down, continue to do your yard work, stay focused."
Houston trialed 9-0 before Chris Carter's RBI single in the sixth. Evan Gattis added a two-run homer in the eighth, his third hit of the game.
Astros: C Jason Castro (right quad strain) missed his 17th game, but caught in the bullpen before the game. Hinch said there is a chance Castro could play in the series finale Thursday. ... OF Carlos Gomez (left intercostal muscle) did some exercises but didn't swing a bat. ... 3B Marwin Gonzalez (swollen left index finger, sore wrist) returned to the lineup after missing two games, but was replaced in the field in the fourth inning.
Rangers: C Robinson Chirinos is expected to swing a bat Thursday for the first time since re-aggravating a left shoulder strain last week.
Astros: Houston wraps up its season-long 11-day, 10-game trip. The Astros are 2-7 so far. They have lost the last three games started by rookie RHP Lance McCullers (5-5).
Rangers: RHP Colby Lewis goes for his career-best 16th win. He is coming off a shutout vs. Oakland when he needed only 97 pitches.
LONG BALL NOTES
Fielder's two homers pushed his total to 21, making the ninth time in his career with at least 20 in a season. It was his 27th career game with multiple homers. ... Bobby Wilson homered for the first time since Aug. 31, 2012, while playing for the Los Angeles Angels.