HOUSTON (AP) Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch might want to consider giving Jose Altuve more days off.
A night after he was out of the starting lineup for the first time all season, the 2017 American League MVP homered twice, including the last of three straight by the Astros in the sixth inning, to lift Houston to a 5-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night.
Altuve, who pinch-hit in the ninth inning on Tuesday night, said getting a little break gave him a chance to regroup.
”It felt good. It’s always good to sit down and think about how you feel,” he said. ”And I came back strong today.”
The game was tied in the bottom of the sixth when George Springer’s 15th homer this season made it 2-1. Two pitches later Alex Bregman sent an 87 mph slider from Rays’ starter Nathan Eovaldi (1-3) into the seats in left field for his 11th home run.
But the Astros weren’t done yet, as Altuve put one on the train tracks atop left field for the second time on Wednesday night to push the lead to 4-1. It was the first time the Astros had hit three home runs in a row since May 2, 2008 when Miguel Tejada, Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee did it against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Altuve got a little amped up after seeing the balls by Springer and Bregman leave the yard, and once he got in a hitter’s count he was looking for a ball to drive.
”There was a lot going on in that inning and I got a little excited,” he said.
It was a welcome display of power for a team which managed just five singles in a 2-1 loss to the Rays on Tuesday night that snapped Houston’s 12-game winning streak. Wednesday night’s win made the Astros the first team to reach 50 victories this season.
”It was a pretty electrifying crowd after three home runs one after another after another,” manager A.J. Hinch said. ”Obviously, it was a huge inning for us. What energy that got put back into the building and also our team. Pretty impressive.”
Houston starter Charlie Morton (9-1) allowed just two hits and one unearned run in six innings for the win.
Eovaldi, who grew up in suburban Houston, entered the game 1-0 with a 2.52 ERA in four career starts against the Astros. But he allowed seven hits and four runs in six innings for his third straight loss.
”It’s just a matter of time before that offense gets you,” manager Kevin Cash said. ”He was efficient, they made some adjustments, but it was a lot of power and by that third time through, it kind of caught up. It’s just a very talented offense.”
Jake Bauers doubled with two outs in the first inning before Morton walked Wilson Ramos and plunked Joey Wendle to load the bases. But he escaped the jam when left fielder Tony Kemp made a diving catch on a ball hit by Willy Adames to end the inning.
”That’s probably the highlight of the game defensively for us just because a lot of things can happen there,” Hinch said. ”We’re playing a little bit deep, it looked like he got a little bit of a late start and then comes in with an acrobatic catch.”
Mallex Smith singled with one out in the fourth and scored when Carlos Gomez grounded out and first baseman Yuli Gurriel badly overthrew first base for an error to make it 1-0.
Altuve tied it up with his first home run of the night with one out in the fourth. It was the first multi-homer game in the regular season since July 24, 2016 for Altuve, who hit a career-best three in Game 1 of the ALDS against Boston last season.
The Astros added a run on an RBI single by Kemp with one out in the seventh.
Astros: Hinch said RHP Joe Smith (right elbow inflammation) was feeling a lot better on Wednesday and is likely to throw off the mound either this weekend or early next week.
Rays: Manager Kevin Cash said INF Daniel Robertson (left hamstring strain) is doing well and should come off the disabled list on Friday.
Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts after going 0 for 5 on Wednesday night in his first game back after missing more than two months following thumb surgery. His slump is a continuation of the struggles he had before the injury and he’s hitting just .135 in 14 games this season.
”Unfortunately, K.K. just got off to a rough start and takes a month or two months off,” Cash said. ”The numbers are going to be ugly for a little while, but I’m very confident he’ll get going.”
Rays: Tampa Bay is off on Thursday before beginning a three-game series with the New York Yankees on Friday. They have yet to announce their pitching rotation for that series.
Astros: Houston also has a day off on Thursday before hosting Kansas City in the opener of a three-game series on Friday. Left-hander Dallas Keuchel (4-8, 4.15 ERA), who got his first win since May 13 in his last start, will oppose Royals’ lefty Danny Duffy.
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