Jose Altuve is back

Altuve returns, Astros start series against Mariners with a win

Jose Altuve's return sparked a big night for Houston's lineup. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After a get-right 3-1 series against the Angels over the weekend, the Astros continued the eight-game homestand on Monday by kicking off a four-game set against the Mariners. Houston hoped to fare better at home against them after dropping two of three in Seattle the last time they met earlier this month. The game also marked the return of Jose Altuve, who would play a big part in Houston starting the series with a win to move back to .500 on the year:

Final Score: Astros 5, Mariners 2

Astros' Record: 11-11, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (1-2)

Losing Pitcher: Justus Sheffield (1-2)

Jose Altuve makes a loud return to the lineup

Jose Altuve, making his return to the lineup after missing time due to COVID protocol, made his presence felt in the leadoff spot by getting on base in Houston's first at-bat in the bottom of the first. He would come around to score the first run of the game on an RBI double by Yordan Alvarez, who would also score on an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel, putting the Astros out to the early 2-0 lead.

Altuve would play a part in another scoring play in the bottom of the fourth, getting a two-out two-RBI single to make it a 4-1 game at the time. They scored again in the bottom of the fifth, with Alex Bregman reaching on an infield single and moving along to third to set up a sac fly by Kyle Tucker, extending the lead to four runs at 5-1.

Urquidy goes six while giving up two runs

The one run for the Mariners through those first five innings was a solo home run by Kyle Lewis off of Jose Urquidy in the top of the third. Urquidy was otherwise avoiding damage until a leadoff solo homer by Kyle Seager in the top of the sixth, making it a three-run game at 5-2. Urquidy would go on to finish that inning, but touching the high 90s in pitch count would not go any further. His final line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 96 P.

Houston starts the series with a win

With Urquidy's night done, the first arm out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu, who would toss a 1-2-3 seventh with two strikeouts. Ryne Stanek was next, erasing a one-out single and two-out walk to keep it a three-run game. With it still 5-2 going to the top of the ninth, the Astros would bring in closer Ryan Pressly, who would finish things off to start the series with a win, Houston's fourth in their last five games, putting them back at an even record.

Up Next: This series rolls on Tuesday night with another 7:10 PM start. Marco Gonzales (1-2, 6.04 ERA) will be on the mound for Seattle, while Cristian Javier (2-0, 1.32 ERA) will stay in the rotation for another start for Houston.

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Houston couldn't keep up

Astros fall to Blue Jays as Toronto gets homer-happy

Houston's bats couldn't keep up with Toronto's Saturday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With an offensive clinic in the opener on Friday night, which helped them handily defeat the Blue Jays, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park Saturday with a chance to secure another series. Toronto had other plans, though, reversing roles with Houston by getting big home runs to even the series.

Final Score: Blue Jays 8, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 17-16, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Steven Matz (5-2)

Losing Pitcher: Cristian Javier (3-1)

Toronto flips the script and turns on their offense against Javier

Toronto flipped the script from the night before early in this middle game of the series, dealing damage to Cristian Javier, who so far in 2021 had been able to limit his amount of earned runs. After retiring the first four batters he faced, a one-out walk in the top of the second set up the Blue Jays' first hit of the night, a two-run home run by Cavan Biggio, giving them a 2-0 lead over Houston.

After a leadoff home run made it a 3-0 score, Javier would deal with the fallout of more walks in the top of the third, issuing two to set up a two-out two-RBI double to give the Jays a commanding 5-0 advantage. Javier would battle back and complete five full innings, getting one out into the sixth before a walk would prompt Dusty Baker to make the call to the bullpen. His final line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 2 HR, 91 P.

Alvarez keeps mashing as Houston tries to claw back into it

Javier would exit with at least some runs on the board in support of him, with Yordan Alvarez hitting a two-run opposite-field homer in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to three runs. Alvarez accounted for another run in the next inning, coming through with an RBI-single to make it 5-3, which is where the game stood as Andre Scrubb would take over in the top of the sixth.

Scrubb finished that inning for Javier and returned for a 1-2-3 seventh to keep it a two-run game. Bryan Abreu was the next reliever, and he, too, was able to retire the Blue Jays in order in the top of the eighth. The Astros continued to chip away at Toronto's lead, getting another run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI by Yuli Gurriel to make it 5-4 heading to the ninth.

Toronto evens the series

Brooks Raley entered to try and keep it a one-run game with a clean inning, but instead, two runners would reach on a walk and error before Joe Smith would enter to try and strand them. Instead, a two-out home run put the game back out of reach at 8-4, with Houston coming up empty in the bottom of the inning, setting up a rubber match in the finale.

Up Next: This series's third and final game will be an afternoon start of 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Zack Greinke (2-1, 3.76 ERA) will try to add more wins to his record for Houston, while Nate Pearson will be making his 2021 debut for Toronto.

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