ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- The Texas Rangers aren't a losing team anymore. They're not winners yet either.
Three weeks after coming off a road trip with the worst record in the major leagues, the Rangers got back to .500 when they clinched their seventh straight series with a 6-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday night."It's significant because it happened this early," Michael Young said. "Obviously it's not where we want to end up. We have higher hopes for this season. To get back to .500 in the middle of May is a pretty good feeling."Milton Bradley and Marlon Byrd hit two-run homers early and Vicente Padilla (6-2) worked seven innings to match his victory total from last season.Texas (22-22) has won 15 of 21 games overall while winning seven series in a row for the first time since 1999, the season the Rangers won their last AL West title. They were 7-16 on April 24 after ending a trip with a seven-game losing streak."We've been playing some great baseball to get back [to .500]," manager Ron Washington said. "We never doubted we could play. It was a matter of us going out and doing it. We finally started doing it."After a 16-8 victory in the opener of the Lone Star Series on Friday night, the Rangers clinched the series and got to .500 for the first time since they were 5-5 on April 11 -- the day after they had their only winning record under their second-year manager following a doubleheader sweep of Baltimore."To get back to .500, teams have to start worrying about us," Byrd said.Bradley homered in the first and Byrd followed an inning later to make it 4-1 against Roy Oswalt (4-4), who had won four straight decisions over six starts since losing his first three starts of the season.Oswalt left in the seventh after allowing consecutive singles and going to a 2-0 count on the third batter of the inning. The right-hander left because of a strained right groin after 111 pitches (72 strikes)."I've felt better. I felt it in the sixth a little bit, a twinge a little bit. They said to go back out there for one more inning and I didn't make it," Oswalt said. "It's not as bad as the one I had before. I'm hoping it's just scar tissue that tore away."After Oswalt left, David Murphy and Gerald Laird had consecutive RBI singles -- off different relievers -- to put the Rangers up 6-2, both runs charged to Oswalt.Astros switch-hitting slugger Lance Berkman extended his hitting streak to 16 games and matched Pete Rose as the only players since 1956 with 31 hits in a span of 50 at-bats.After his major league-best 16th homer leading off the fourth, Berkman had a single in the sixth that matched Rose's 31-of-50 stretch for Philadelphia in 1979. Berkman popped out to end the eighth, but finished 2-for-3 with a walk to raise his season average to .399.Houston led 1-0 after Kazuo Matsui drew a walk, stole second base and scored on Miguel Tejada's single in the first.But Texas went ahead to stay in the bottom of the inning when Josh Hamilton had a two-out single and Bradley followed by pulling an off-speed pitch into the right-field seats. Oswalt immediately pointed to his chest, taking blame for the bad pitch.Byrd then hit his first home, and finished 3-for-4 in his first start since coming off the disabled list Wednesday after missing 26 games because of left knee inflammation.Hamilton, the major league RBI leader, left for a pinch-runner after his single in the fifth. The outfielder was still sore from the tumble he took while almost making a spectacular running catch in center in the first inning Friday night.Hamilton still went 5-for-5 with two home runs, a triple and five RBIs in Friday night's game, and was 2-for-3 on Saturday before coming out of the game. Hamilton leads the majors with 49 RBIs (in 43 games) and was tied for the AL lead with 10 homers.Padilla won his fourth consecutive decision over five starts. The right-hander allowed two runs and five hits over seven innings."He pitched me tougher than I've been pitched all year," said Hunter Pence, who extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a single in the eighth off a reliever. "He threw me all fastballs and located every one of them. It was moving. I wasn't very comfortable facing him."
The pregame ceremony included color guards from each of the four branches of the Armed Services. First pitches were thrown by the two sons of a Texas-based soldier in Iraq, who joined the crowd via satellite singing "Happy Birthday" to the boys. ... Astros CF Michael Bourn had stolen 18 straight bases this season before being thrown out by Laird in the seventh inning.