HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Astros opened the season by scoring eight runs.
They haven’t been able to hit much of anything since.
A day after Yu Darvish came within one out of a perfect game, Alexi Ogando and four Texas relievers shut out the Astros again, combining for a five-hitter in the Rangers’ 4-0 win over Houston on Wednesday.
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.
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.
Carlos Pena, one of Houston’s only veterans, said it’s important not to make too much of what happened in the last two games.
“Just a couple of rough games. You just leave it at that,” he said. “They pitched well. We weren’t facing easy ... pitchers. These guys are good. It’s no secret they have a pretty good pitching staff.”
Lance Berkman doubled in a run for the Rangers a day after they blanked Houston 7-0 behind Darvish’s nearly historic gem.
“Yesterday, it was more about their guy, and today it was more about our guys,” Houston manager Bo Porter said of 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).”
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.
Relievers Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Michael Kirkman allowed one hit combined in the final 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 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.
Humber had retired 10 of 11 batters before walking Berkman to start the sixth inning. Adrian Beltre and David Murphy followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases. Nelson Cruz grounded into a double play that sent Berkman home to give Texas a 1-0 lead and chase Humber.