Rapid Reaction: Astros 8, Rangers 3

HOUSTON -- Yu Darvish just wasn’t himself Saturday night.

He was not the ace the Texas Rangers need him to be every fifth day.

It happens.

But when you’re trying to emerge from the basement of the American League against another team that’s in the same universe, losses like the one the Rangers suffered Saturday -- 8-3 to the Houston Astros -- sting just a little bit more.

As it stands, the Rangers are 45-71, last in the AL and on pace for the No. 1 pick in next summer's draft.

With one game left on this nine-game road trip, the Rangers are 2-6 and have lost nine of their past 11 games on the road.

Darvish (10-7) is the only positive from the pitching staff; on Saturday he struggled to throw his slider for strikes and it appeared he got flustered during his effort.

His teammates didn’t help matters by failing to produce against former teammate Scott Feldman (6-8) until Darvish was gone for the night after failing to get out of the fifth inning.

How it happened: It was slow and ugly. The Astros picked up two runs in the first on RBIs from Jon Singleton and Matt Dominguez. When the first inning ended, Darvish had thrown 31 pitches.

The fifth is when Darvish just lost everything. He loaded the bases and allowed a two-run double by Singleton that landed just fair down the right-field line. Dominguez’s RBI single pushed the lead to 5-0 and Rangers manager Ron Washington had seen enough. Right-hander Nate Adcock entered, marking the second time this season Darvish left a start in the middle of an inning without retiring any hitter in that frame.

What happened to The Yu? Just wasn’t his night. Darvish's slider was missing the lower half of the plate, the Astros weren’t afraid to attack him when he was forced to throw strikes and his pitch count increased in a hurry. He threw 31 in the first and was at 90 to start the fifth inning. When it was over, he had thrown 113 pitches, marking the third consecutive outing he’s thrown at least 100. Not counting the rain-shortened effort July 23 at the New York Yankees, where he was credited with a complete game after pitching 4⅓ innings, this was Darvish’s shortest outing since July 4 against the New York Mets.

What’s interesting about Darvish is that while people talk about his record against the Oakland Athletics (0-2, 6.91 ERA), he’s now 0-2 with a no-decision against the Astros this season. He’s given up 12 runs in 18 innings of work.

The last chance for the Rangers: Trailing 7-2 heading into the seventh, the Rangers had one final shot to make a game of it. Texas loaded the bases, which forced Astros manager Bo Porter to pull Feldman in favor of right-hander Josh Fields. Elvis Andrus drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to center. Daniel Robertson struck out to end the inning with the Rangers having scored just one.

Carp gets caught: Newly acquired outfielder/first baseman Mike Carp lasted just three innings before leaving the game with a left groin strain. He's listed as day-to-day. Carp struck out twice and is now 1-for-14 in his past eight games between Boston and Texas. Robertson replaced him in left field.

What’s next? The Rangers can’t win the series, but to avoid a sweep they’re going with right-hander Nick Martinez (1-8, 5.31 ERA) against lefty Dallas Keuchel (10-7, 2.89).