HOUSTON — Michael Brantley hit a two-run homer early to back up a strong start from rookie Cristian Javier and the Houston Astros held on for 2-1 win over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night.
Brantley, who had a three-run shot in a loss on Tuesday night, connected off Kolby Allard (0-4) with one out in the first on his homer to the seats in right field to give the Astros an early lead.
Allard shut the Astros down after that, but with Javier’s pitching performance it was enough for Houston to hold on for the win.
Houston’s rookie allowed only a solo home run to Isiah Kiner-Falefa and a single by Joey Gallo in a career-high 6 2/3 innings to win his third straight decision.
Javier, who only pitched two games in Triple-A last year before making the big league roster this season, has given Houston’s rotation a much-needed boost with ace Justin Verlander out with an injury.
“This was an opportunity that he has seized,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We’re proud of him. We need him and he’s come through when we needed him.”
Javier is happy that he’s been able to contribute to this team in his first season.
“It feels really good to have that vote of confidence from my manager,” he said in Spanish through a translator. “It feels really good to have that opportunity and take advantage of it this season.”
Ryan Pressly pitched a perfect ninth for his seventh save. He rebounded after blowing the save in a 6-5 loss in 10 innings in the series opener.
Javier (4-1) had retired the first 10 batters before Kiner-Falefa homered to left field to cut the lead to 2-1 with one out in the fourth inning.
Shin-Soo Choo walked after the homer before Gallo’s single with two outs, but Javier retired Elvis Andrus to end the inning. It was the first of nine straight batters that Javier retired before he walked Andrus with two outs in the seventh to end his night.
The Astros couldn’t get anything going off Allard after Brantley’s home run. Martin Maldonado walked with no outs in the third, but the Astros didn’t get another hit until Jose Altuve singled on a bunt with two outs in the sixth inning. But he was left stranded when Brantley lined out to end the inning, and Allard ended his outing by pitching a 1-2-3 seventh.
Allard yielded two hits and two runs with two walks and four strikeouts in a career-high seven innings.
Although he took the loss, Texas manager Chris Woodward was impressed with Allard’s work and said it should boost the confidence of the 23-year-old.
“(He) used both sides of the plate with his pitches, used his changeup pretty effectively,” Woodward said. “It was really good, and unfortunately it was just the one mistake and we couldn’t really muster anything on offense. Otherwise, it was a really, really good outing.”
The Rangers shook up their lineup on Wednesday, moving Choo down to third to put rookie Leody Taveras in the leadoff spot. Taveras had a tough night, going 0 for 4.
Astros: Starter Jose Urquidy, who hasn’t pitched this season for an undisclosed reason, could make his debut on Saturday in one of the games of a double-header against the Angels. Manager Dusty Baker said the right-hander was scheduled to throw a bullpen in Houston in the next couple of days to prepare for his return.
The Astros granted reliever Fernando Rodney his unconditional release after the game. Rodney signed a minor league contract with Houston on July 31 and had been working out at the team’s alternate training site.
HOMER HAPPY IN HOUSTON
Kiner-Falefa has hit just seven home runs in his career and five of them have come at Minute Maid Park. His five homers in Houston since 2018 are tied for third most in that span behind Kyle Seager (7) and Mike Trout (6).
The series wraps up on Thursday when Houston’s Zack Greinke (2-0, 2.68 ERA) opposes Lance Lynn (4-1, 1.93).