HOUSTON -- The consensus in the Astros' clubhouse Friday night was they had let Rangers starter Neftali Feliz, who was so wild he threw less than half of his 101 pitches for strikes, off the hook with their inability to square him up.
The Astros managed only three hits against the Rangers' closer-turned-starter, only one of which came with a man in scoring position. And with ace pitcher Wandy Rodriguez not having his best night, the Rangers were able beat the Astros, 4-1, at Minute Maid Park.
"We got some guys on base, and we've just got to make sure the next couple of guys are getting that big hit and getting some runners in," Astros third baseman Chris Johnson said.
A raucous crowd of 34,715 -- the largest since Opening Day -- energized the ballpark with chants of "Let's go Astros!" and "Let's go Rangers!" in the season's first clash of the Lone Star Series, which next year will be a battle of American League West rivals.
"The fans were pumped up for this one tonight," Johnson said. "It's nice, you know. You get some of those Rangers fans chanting and then all of a sudden the Astros fans are shouting. It's actually pretty neat to be out there playing in front of crowds like that."
The Astros, who began the day ranked second in the National League in batting average with runners in scoring position, were 1-for-7 with runners at second and third base and stranded eight on base. They only managed four singles against Feliz and three Texas relievers.
Feliz didn't work the five innings necessary as a starter to qualify for the win, allowing five walks, hitting one batter and giving up three hits in 4 2/3 innings. The Texas bullpen held the Astros to one hit in 4 1/3 scoreless innings, sending down the final 11 batters as Joe Nathan worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his ninth save.
Left-hander Robbie Ross (5-0) threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings to get the win. But the Astros lamented the chances they had before the Rangers bullpen got its hands dirty.
"He put some guys on base and we had a chance to score some runs," said Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, who walked twice against Feliz. "That's baseball. He came back and threw some good pitches and got out of the inning and after that, he threw a good game."
Rodriguez (3-4), who entered the game ranked among the league leaders in ERA, wasn't nearly as sharp as he has been for most of the season. He worked six innings and allowed a season-high 10 hits, along with three runs and two walks while striking out four batters for his sixth quality start in nine outings.
"Wandy's good," Rangers first baseman Michael Young said. "He's a veteran pitcher who we have a lot of respect for. He knows how to pitch and he battled tonight. He did a good job making pitches. We didn't score a lot of runs off him, but we scored just enough."
The Astros kept Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton (1-for-5, two strikeouts) somewhat in check, but Ian Kinsler (3-for-5), Adrian Beltre (2-for-3, two runs) and Young (2-for-3) led Texas' 11-hit attack. Beltre hit a solo homer in the seventh off reliever Fernando Rodriguez.
"We knew that coming in with the ballclub and how deep the lineup is," Astros manager Brad Mills said.
The Astros' biggest threat came in the second when Brian Bogusevic singled, Johnson was hit by a pitch in the back and Jason Castro walked after one out. Wandy Rodriguez struck out swinging and Jordan Schafer flied out to left field to end the rally.
"The big inning for us offensively was that second inning," Mills said. "We had the bases loaded after those walks and we were unable to keep the inning going. Every time a guy rises with the bases loaded, you like to score. Five walks, [three] singles is what we were able to muster off him. When you get the guys on, you need to come through with those hits."
The lone run that Houston scored in the third inning wasn't easy. Altuve led off the inning with a walk, stole second base, moved to third on a fly ball and scored on an infield hit by Jed Lowrie. Houston managed only one more hit the rest of the game.
"It's one of those things where [Feliz] was effectively wild tonight," said Johnson, who's hitting .296 in May. "We had some guys on base, but when you play teams like this you have to get that big hit and get some runs across. One run is not going to cut it against these guys."