HOUSTON (AP) Cole Ragans gave up three hits and two runs over six strong innings and the Kansas City Royals used two big innings to defeat Houston 7-5 on Friday night, knocking the Astros out of first place in the AL West.
Houston, which has lost seven of its last 10 games, dropped a half-game back of the Texas Rangers in the division. Houston, 39-40 at home this season, holds a half-game lead for the final AL wild-card spot over the Mariners with eight games remaining. The Rangers beat the Mariners 8-5 on Friday night.
“It’s very frustrating,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “The guys are a little frustrated, but we are still in a good position.”
The Royals jumped on Framber Valdez for four runs in the first. Bobby Witt Jr. hit an RBI triple, and M.J. Melendez, Edward Olivares and Nick Loftin also drove in runs.
The Royals tacked on three more in the sixth on an RBI groundout by Nick Pratto and a two-run single by Kyle Isbel for a 7-2 lead.
“Really big part of that game was Pratto getting the ball in play and Izzy getting the ball in play against Valdez, whose been really tough on lefties,” Kansas City manager Matt Quatraro said.
Ragans (7-4) struck out five and walked four.
“I had a few walks, made some pitches when I needed to make a pitch,” Ragans said. “Offense was relentless once again and giving me a four-run cushion there early helps me settle down. Good team win.”
He allowed five runs in six innings against the Astros last Saturday.
“Cole, that’s pretty impressive,” Quatraro said. “Two starts in a row against this team as he’s emerging in his big league career and to battle the way he did. They made him work. He had good stuff. He wasn’t getting as much swing and miss, but he executed some pitches when he really needed to, and that was really impressive.”
James McArthur pitched the final 1 2/3 innings for his second save as Kansas City won for the eighth time in its last nine games.
Yordan Alvarez hit an RBI double in the first, and José Abreu hit a solo home run in the second.
Chas McCormick hit a three-run home run in the eighth to cut the lead to 7-5, but after Jose Altuve singled to put runners on the corners with two outs, Jeremy Peña flew out to end the threat.
Houston finished 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
“It was a frustrating night because we had opportunities,” Baker said. “I don’t know how many, but I know we had quite a few, we just didn’t pick up the RBIs, which I talk about all the time."
Valdez (12-11) surrendered seven runs - six earned - on four hits with 10 strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. He also walked three and hit two batters.
“Winning,” Valdez said through a translator when asked about the mindset of the team. “Try to continue winning and try to continue battling. That’s the priority.”
Royals: C Salvador Perez (concussion) cleared his concussion protocol and worked out on Friday, Quatraro said. Perez can be activated off the 7-day concussion injured list on Sunday. … LHP Daniel Lynch IV (left shoulder strain) threw two scoreless innings in his first rehab start Thursday with Triple A Omaha. Lynch did well and will go to Arizona to “do a progression,” Quatraro said. … LHP Austin Cox (left knee sprain) had successful surgery Thursday, Quatraro said.
Astros: RHP Ryne Stanek (right ankle sprain) was reinstated from the 15-day injured list. RHP Joel Kuhnel was optioned to Triple A Sugar Land to make room on the active roster. … OF Michael Brantley was out of the lineup for a fourth straight game Friday with right shoulder soreness.
FIRST ROUND PICKS THROW OUT FIRST PITCHES
Houston Rockets first round draft picks Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore threw out the ceremonial first pitches Friday.
Astros RHP J.P. France (11-5, 3.84 ERA) starts Saturday in the second game of the three-game series opposite Royals RHP Jordan Lyles (4-17, 6.43 ERA).
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