(TSX / STATS) -- ARLINGTON, Texas -- One big inning, helped along by a couple of errors, was all the Houston Astros needed Monday night.
Marwin Gonzalez racked up a season-high four hits, including two in Houston's eight-run fourth, and the Astros all but closed the door on the Texas Rangers' fading playoff hopes with an 11-2 romp to open a three-game series at Globe Life Park.
"We put together some pretty good innings this year. That was another one," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "When they gave us another extra out or two, we capitalized and put up really good at-bats. Obviously, we took advantage of a few things. A big number to separate ourselves, and we took control of the game."
The Rangers (76-80) lost their fourth consecutive game and fell six games behind the Minnesota Twins (82-74) with six games to play in the race for the second American League wild-card berth. One loss by the Rangers or one Twins win eliminates Texas.
American League West champion Houston (96-60) moved within two games of the Cleveland Indians (98-58) for the best record in the league.
AL hit leader Jose Altuve left the game in the eighth inning with a left forearm contusion after getting hit by a pitch. X-rays were negative, but Hinch said Altuve may be given Tuesday off.
Gonzalez and Evan Gattis each had two hits and drove in two runs in the Astros' huge fourth inning. Houston sent 12 batters to the plate in the inning.
"It was awesome," said Gonzalez, who added his 23rd homer in the sixth inning and finished 4-for-5 with three RBIs. "They made a couple of mistakes. We took advantage, we got a few hits, and we got on top in the game."
Texas starter Andrew Casher (10-11) fell victim to a few bad breaks in the fourth. Seven runs were unearned because of two errors, but Cashner didn't do himself any favors with two walks and a hit batter in the inning.
"I never found a way to recover," he said. "Tried to make pitches, get the swing and miss, and it snowballed quick."
The seven unearned runs tied a Texas club record for an inning (done four times) and also matched the most in the majors this season.
Houston starter Collin McHugh improved to 4-2 after going five innings and allowing two runs and seven hits. The right-hander struck out six and walked three.
Four relievers each worked a scoreless inning for the Astros.
Joey Gallo gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the second with a towering opposite-field home run to left-center field against McHugh. Gallo's 39th long ball was only his third this month.
The benches cleared one batter later with Carlos Gomez at the plate. Gomez had just replaced his bat after slamming it on home plate, and McHugh appeared to quick-pitch him, and Gomez fouled the pitch off.
Words followed as players from both dugouts and bullpens spilled onto the field. No punches were thrown, and warnings were issued by plate umpire Paul Nauert to both sides.
Gomez claimed after the game that McHugh was out to purposely hit him.
"It's always going to be I am the troublemaker," said Gomez, who previously played for Houston. "I'm always going to get blamed. The truth is I got told by one of the people who work for them that he was going to hit me. So last time I faced him, he hit me right away. No one said anything about that, but I react to something, I'm the troublemaker. How am I supposed to react?"
McHugh said he wasn't trying to hit Gomez.
"I don't want to spend any more mental effort thinking about Carlos Gomez," McHugh said. "It is what it is."
Texas went up 2-0 in the third on Adrian Beltre's RBI single that scored Elvis Andrus.
Houston grabbed an 8-2 advantage in the fourth, though Cashner should have escaped the inning with the lead intact.
Alex Bregman's sacrifice fly got the scoring going before a two-out, bases-loaded error by Andrus scored a second run and kept the inning alive. The shortstop failed to field George Springer's slow bouncer up the middle.
A walk forced in another run, and an error by third baseman Will Middlebrooks on a deep chopper by Carlos Correa plated a fourth run. Cashner was done after Gonzalez's subsequent two-run single to center.
Gattis greeted reliever Paolo Espino with his second hit of the inning, a double into the left field corner that scored two more.
NOTES: Manager Jeff Banister returned to the Rangers after missing two games to be with his mother, who was dealing with complications from surgery. Banister said she is doing better. ... Houston improved to 10-7 against Texas to clinch the season series and win the "Silver Boot" trophy. ... Texas has three players 23 or younger with at least 20 home runs -- INF Joey Gallo (39), 2B Rougned Odor (30) and OF Nomar Mazara (20) -- which ties a major league record. ... Houston's 96 wins are tied with the 1986 club for the third most in franchise history.
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