HOUSTON -- C.J. Wilson had the baseball secured in his locker afterward and promised to put it in a special place."It's going in a vault ... that's the highlight of my baseball career," Wilson said. On a night when outfielder Josh Hamilton made a breathtaking highlight catch in a crucial situation, Wilson's first Major League hit was what really got the Rangers going in a 7-3 victory over the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night. The Rangers have a 3-1 lead with two games left in the Lone Star Series. The Rangers need one win in the last two games to keep the Silver Boot for the fifth straight year. Wilson's hit just wasn't any old single. It was a triple -- only the second ever by a Rangers pitcher since the designated hitter was instituted in 1973 -- and led to the Rangers' first run of the game in the third inning. They were trailing, 1-0, at the time. "That was exciting ... he really hit that ball hard," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "When you get a run out of your pitcher, whether it's an RBI or a run scored, it definitely gets you going offensively." Kinsler drove in Wilson with a grounder to shortstop -- "playing the game," said manager Ron Washington -- and Hamilton put the Rangers ahead later in the inning with his eighth home run of the season off Astros starter Jordan Lyles. Three straight singles by Adrian Beltre, Michael Young and Nelson Cruz made it a three-run rally that was started by Wilson's triple. "That got us feeling good and playing relaxed," Hamilton said. The triple came one inning after Wilson got nailed in the foot with a line drive off the bat off Chris Johnson. The foot was still sore when Wilson, leading off the third, ripped a line drive into the right-center-field gap that skipped past center fielder Michael Bourn and up the little hill in the deepest part of the ballpark. "I didn't have much film on him," Lyles said. "I know he's athletic. I think the first pitch was a ball away that I missed. The next pitch wasn't that bad of a pitch I don't think. He put a good swing on it. I wasn't expecting it." If not for the sore foot ... "I was going for home," Wilson said. "If there is any ballpark that is custom made for an inside-the-park home run where I hit that ball, it's this one. But, after getting hit in the foot with a line drive, I couldn't take a good route around the bases. I did what I do best, make adjustments." He pulled into third base and the Rangers dugout was going nuts. Wilson got to give his teammates the Claw and Antlers signs and both trademark gestures were shown on the jumbo screen hovering over right field. As the ballpark camera zoomed in on Wilson, the crowd of 29,132 booed with each gesture Wilson made. "That's cool to get some animosity on the road," Wilson. "You're not going be loved by everyone. But it was awesome. Anytime a pitcher gets a hit, you can see the enthusiasm go up with your team. Last year, when Colby Lewis got two hits in Milwaukee, I was doing somersaults I was so happy for him." On the mound, Wilson went seven innings and raised his record to 8-3 with a 3.14 ERA by holding the Astros to two runs on seven hits. He walked two and struck out three. The foot wasn't a problem on the mound as much as a ground ball that he took off the fingertips of his left hand in the fourth inning. The fingertips went numb and he wasn't able to throw his sinker the rest of the night. But he was able to get through it and the big play was made by Hamilton in the sixth. Wilson, holding a 5-1 lead, ran into trouble that inning when Bourn led off with a triple and scored on a single by Hunter Pence. Carlos Lee followed with a long drive to deep right-center. But Hamilton raced over from center and made an all-out diving backhanded catch on the warning track. "That was ridiculous ... awesome," Wilson said. "That's the way you play the game," Washington said. "If he doesn't make that play, you never know what's going to happen in the inning." Hamilton actually wasn't happy that he didn't make a better effort chasing down a double by Clint Barmes into the left-center-field alley in the previous inning. "I sort of alligatored it ... didn't really dive after it because I was worried about diving," Hamilton said. That wasn't the case in the sixth. "I told C.J. after the inning, 'Hey try and have them hit the ball closer to me,'" Hamilton said. "The next inning, [Barmes] hit it right at me. That was pretty funny." Wilson then got Jeff Keppinger to hit a double-play grounder right at shortstop Andres Blanco and the Rangers turned an inning-ending double play. Astros manager Brad Mills was ejected for arguing the call at first base, but it was still one of three double plays turned by the Rangers on the night. The Rangers also hit three home runs. Mitch Moreland went deep in the eighth and Kinsler did so in the ninth. But the biggest hit was a triple and that's the baseball that will be stored away forever.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.