(The Sports Xchange) - Houston ace Dallas Keuchel had the worst outing of his big-league career as Texas rolled to a 14-3 victory on Wednesday that moved the Rangers 1-1/2 games ahead of the Astros in the American League West.
Keuchel, a Cy Young candidate, gave up nine earned runs and three of the five home runs the Rangers smashed in their 16-hit performance.
The Rangers wasted no time in getting to Keuchel (17-8), scoring six runs in the first inning, with left fielder Mike Napoli hitting a three-run homer and second baseman Rougned Odor adding a two-run shot.
Designated hitter Prince Fielder hit two of the Rangers' five homers, including a solo shot off Keuchel in the third inning and a three-run shot in the sixth off Michael Feliz.
"You saw some big hitters on a mission," Texas manager Jeff Banister said. "We talked about the big man in the middle (Fielder) and how he was close.
"He wasn't close tonight, he was a man on a mission, getting out front and showing what he can be in that batter's box for us."
Keuchel gave up 11 hits in his 4-2/3 innings.
"I know the guys were leaning on me to go out there and perform," Keuchel said. "When I looked at their lineup and saw four lefties in there, I kind of get excited, because I don't normally face a lot of lefties.
"Knock on wood, I've been pretty good against them. And then they are hitting everything out of the ballpark. It's frustrating but they're a hot team."
Texas left-hander Martin Perez (3-5) scattered nine hits over his seven innings of work and gave up just one run as he took advantage of the offense behind him.
"I threw strikes and got ahead of hitters," Perez said. "I just felt comfortable out there.
"We're in first place, but we've got to keep fighting and don't give a chance to any of the teams behind us. We've got to win every day."
Houston got three hits from designated hitter Evan Gattis, who hit a two-run homer in the eighth.
"It was a rough night to say the least," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said.
"We've got to wash this one away and try to salvage a game out of this series and get home to Houston.
"It was a difficult night for Dallas, a difficult night for our team. Everything that seemed to go right was on their side of the ball."
(Compiled by Greg Stutchbury)