<
>

Hidalgo hits home run in fourth straight game

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Texas manager Buck Showalter scoffed at
the suggestion that Pedro Astacio was pitching to save his spot in
the Rangers' rotation.

If Astacio pitches more often like he did Wednesday night, such
notions won't even be a concern.

Astacio (2-5) limited the Kansas City Royals to two runs and
four hits over seven innings, and the Rangers won 7-3 for their
fifth straight win -- the longest current streak in the majors.

"I know I had a couple of bad games. Those games are in the
past, I can't do anything about it," Astacio said. "Whatever they
say, I pitch. I'm ready when they give me the ball to try to do my
job."

While winning for the first time in six starts since April 19,
Astacio struck out six and walked one. He pitched on seven days'
rest, the Rangers having skipped his last turn into the rotation
when they had two days off the past week.

"He knows the difference, he knows when he's done his job,"
Showalter said. "He was coming off a good outing, and had another
one."

Richard Hidalgo homered for the fourth time in four games. Hank
Blalock had a two-run homer and an RBI single while playing his
53rd straight game at third base without an error, matching Buddy
Bell's club record set in 1979.

Astacio retired the first 10 batters he faced before David
DeJesus singled in the fourth. Two batters later, Matt Stairs hit
his fifth homer for a 2-all score. Emil Brown followed with a
single, but Astacio then retired 10 of the last 12 batters he
faced.

"He was putting the ball on the corner, then getting them to
swing at the breaking pitch," catcher Rod Barajas said. "He has
incredible confidence in his ability. He expects a lot out of
himself and that's all you can ask."

In the five other starts since his only other win against
Oakland, Astacio had allowed 26 earned runs over 22 2/3 innings.

Based on the incentive-filled contract Astacio signed with the
Rangers, he will earn a bonus for each start he makes after this.
His next start with be his 10th, earning him $8,000 just for
stepping on the mound.

Hidalgo led off the third with his ninth homer. An inning later,
after Kansas City tied the game at 2, Hidalgo's hit produced the
run that put the Rangers ahead to stay, even if he didn't get
credited with an RBI.

Kevin Mench walked to start the fourth, and came home when
Hidalgo singled to center. The ball was misplayed and got by
DeJesus, allowing Mench to score. Hidalgo scored on Michael Young's
single for a 4-2 lead.

The single broke a streak of four straight hits that were home
runs for Hidalgo, who homered twice Tuesday night. Hidalgo has
improved his average from .167 to .225 in the last 17 games. He has
seven home runs in that span.

Zack Greinke (0-6), who hasn't won in 14 starts since Sept. 9 at
Detroit, allowed four runs and six hits over five innings.

"He's kept us in games. He's pitched well. Maybe we'll get some
runs for him some day," interim manager Bob Schaefer said.

"It was one of my better outings. They made little plays that
worked out," Greinke said. "It's a little frustrating because I
can't win. I feel like I've thrown decent."

Blalock's eighth homer, a two-run shot, gave the Rangers a 6-2
lead in the seventh. An inning later, he had his only defensive
chance, a routine grounder off the bat of Angel Berroa. He has had
144 total chances since a throwing error against Seattle on Sept.
25.

"Buddy Bell was a great player for the Rangers and it's an
honor to have my name associated with a record like that," Blalock
said.

Game notes
DeJesus slammed into the wall after making a running catch
of Alfonso Soriano's flyball in the fifth. The impact left an
imprint on the wall and DeJesus remained down for several minutes
after banging his knee. A trainer came out to check him, but the
best indication that he was OK was LF Terrence Long laughing as he
talked to DeJesus. ... Texas CF Laynce Nix was ejected after
arguing with home plate umpire Paul Emmel about a called third
strike to end the fifth. He was the first Rangers player ejected
from a game this season. ... The Rangers are 8-0 when Hidalgo
homers.