ARLINGTON, Texas — Justin Verlander struck out nine in seven innings after Shin-Soo Choo homered on the Houston ace's first pitch of the game, and the Astros went on to beat the Texas Rangers 7-3 Friday night.
The hard-throwing right-hander gave up three earned runs after allowing just two in his first 40 2/3 innings on the road this season, but the Astros gave him a 4-1 lead in the second, capped by George Springer's two-run double .
Houston held on even after Rangers slugger Joey Gallo bunted against the shift for a base hit in the sixth inning, drawing a big ovation from the crowd. The Astros had been putting six defenders to the right side of second base when Gallo batted this season, and old-school baseball fans had been urging him to bunt toward third and beat the shift. Verlander escaped that inning to preserve a 5-3 lead.
Jose Altuve's two-run homer off reliever Matt Bush gave the Astros their biggest lead in the seventh.
Alex Bregman connected on a solo shot in the fifth against Texas starter Doug Fister, who left the game with right knee soreness after throwing one pitch in the sixth.
It was the third time in 24 starts for Houston, including the playoffs, that Verlander has allowed three earned runs. And that's the most the 2012 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner has given up since joining the Astros for the final month on the way to their first World Series title last year.
Verlander (8-2) bounced back from Choo's 11th homer with five straight strikeouts. Adrian Beltre fanned three times against Verlander in his first four-strikeout game since 2012.
Nomar Mazara had a two-run double in the third as Verlander's major league-leading ERA rose to 1.45.
Fister (1-7) allowed six hits and five runs in five innings, remaining winless in 10 starts since beating the Astros in his Texas debut on the second day of the season.
Marwin Gonzalez had a tying RBI double in the second before the speedy Tony Kemp's infield single put the Astros in front for good. Springer followed with a liner into the corner in left field.
Choo, who extended his majors-leading streak of reaching base to 24 games, also had a walk and a bunt single.
CORREA SITS AGAIN
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa missed his second straight game since coming out after seven innings against Seattle on Wednesday because of soreness on his right side. Correa said an MRI didn't show anything abnormal, but manager A.J. Hinch said the club won't rush it. "I think what gives us comfort is that he hasn't had any pain since the night that he got injured. He's not feeling anything when he coughs, when he breathes, when he laughs, any sort of body movement," Hinch said. The Astros have a day off after this four-game series.
Astros: C Brian McCann was activated from the disabled list after missing nine games with right knee soreness, snapping a 1-for-29 slide with a single in the ninth inning.
Rangers: SS Elvis Andrus took light batting practice. He's been on the disabled list since April 13 after breaking his right elbow when he was hit by a pitch. Andrus is eligible to come off the 60-day DL Monday.
Houston RHP Charlie Morton (7-1, 2.84 ERA) is coming off his first loss in his worst start of the season — nine hits and six runs in 5 1/3 innings in a 9-3 loss to Boston. Texas LHP Mike Minor (4-4, 5.76) is facing the Astros for the third time this season. He was 0-1 with a 6.52 ERA in the first two.