ASTROS REPORT

Astros end slump at Minute Maid and may have found a hidden gem

The Astros got a much-needed series win. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

After starting their season with a 6-3 record, the Houston Astros were swept by the Detroit Tigers, lost two of three games to the Seattle Mariners and were swept once again by the Colorado Rockies (who had the worst record in baseball at the time) in a 2-game series.

During this 1-7 stretch the Astros offense was atrocious as they were unable to score runs consistently.

Sure they didn't have Alex Bregman, Robel Garcia, Martin Maldonado and Yordan Alvarez in four of those games during that stretch due to being placed on the COVID-19 reserve for contract tracing, but other players were not stepping up as they should have.

One player in particular who has had a tough season is Kyle Tucker.

His batting average is .181 to start the year with 16 strikeouts.

Martin Maldonado is another Astros' player who is slumping as his batting average is .111 and leads the team with 23 strikeouts.

The two bright spots of the 1-7 slump were Michael Brantley and Yuli Gurriel.

Both batters continued to stay hot at the plate has they were able to hit above .300 and keep the team afloat during this valley portion of the season.

The Astros looked to change their fortunes by starting the first half of an eight game homestead against the Los Angeles Angels.

Thursday night's game to start the series was historic, as it was the first time the Astros played exclusively on YouTube.

The popular video sharing site seemed to bring good luck, as Houston went on to score the most runs in a game since their initial 4-game series against the Oakland A's.

A more likely factor for their good offensive fortunes could be that Astros' manager Dusty Baker made a change to his lineup by putting Carlos Correa as the leadoff hitter for the first time in his career.

This seemed to work as Correa had two hits, two RBI and scored three runs.

Alex Bregman had his best performance since returning from the COVID-19 list landing three hits and three RBI.

Cristian Javier made his Astros return after spending some time at the alternate site. He struck out a career-high nine batters and threw five scoreless innings.

The Astros broke their 3-game losing streak and beat the Angels 8-2.

Friday's game proved to be more difficult as Houston needed extra-innings and an unlikely hero to win their second straight game against the Angels.

Los Angeles took a 2-0 lead in the 5th inning but Gurriel tied the game with a two-run home run in the bottom of the 7th.

The Angels scored two runs in the top of the 10th on RBI singles by David Fletcher and Astros' headache Albert Pujols off Ryan Pressly to take a 4-2 lead. These were the first earned runs given up by Pressly this season.

The bottom of the 10th started with Kyle Tucker on second base and went to third on a fly ball by Aledmys Díaz. Myles Straw singled to score Tucker and the lead was cut to 4-3.

Jason Castro then hit a ground-rule double into the right field corner to send Straw to third. The play was reviewed to see if it was a foul ball, but the call was upheld.

Correa was able to score Straw on a sacrifice fly to tie the game 4-4.

With two outs in the bottom of the 10th, the number 2 spot came up in the batting order. Instead of the usual Michael Brantley hitting in that place, it was Robel Garcia, who just returned from being on the COVID-19 reserve list.

Brantley was pinch run for by Chaz McCormick earlier in the game and Garcia was pinch hitting for McCormick.

Garcia took two quick strikes from Angels closer Raisel Iglesias but hit an RBI single to score Castro to win the game 5-4 for the Astros.

Saturday's game was arguably the best game for the 'Stros, as they scored a season high 16 runs and found an unused gem in their bullpen.

Jake Odorizzi started the game for the Astros, but only lasted 1/3 of an inning as he left the game early with an injury.

Enter Kent Emanuel who didn't think he was going to pitch anytime soon.

"All of the sudden they were like: 'Hey, you better start loosening up,'" he said. "I was like ... 'here we go."' Emanuel said after the game.

The former Astros minor leaguer made his major league debut by pitching the remaining 8 2/3 innings of the game.

"It's pretty wild," Emanuel said. "But I've been expecting this moment for quite some time now. So, I was ready."

He allowed five hits and two runs and became the fourth pitcher to have a relief outing of 8 2/3 innings or more in the modern era. Fred Smith (1907), Maury Kent (1912) and John Montefusco (1974) were the others just in case you were wondering.

The Astros gave Emanuel a lot of run support to say the least.

Correa, Bregman and Kyle Tucker all hit home runs in this game to give the Astros their best offensive performance of the season.

Sundays' game ended the week on a sour note, but was still eventful nonetheless.

Lance McCullers started the game and pitched more than five innings for the first time and left the game with a no decision after Yuli Gurriel hit his fourth homer of the season to tie the game 2-2.

Angles two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani broke the game open with a solo home run off Luis Garcia in the top of the 8th to give the Angels a 3-2 lead.

The Halos won the game 4-2, but still lost the series to the Astros 3-1.

This was the first series win since their first one of the season in which they swept the Oakland A's in four games.

UP NEXT: The Astros finish out their homestead with four games against the Seattle Mariners before heading on the road Friday to take on the Tampa Bay Rays.

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Kyle Tucker had a big day at the plate on Sunday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of the series, with one team or the other putting on a solid offensive performance in each, the Astros tried to win their fourth series in their last five by taking the rubber game on Sunday against the Blue Jays. Thanks in part to a big day from Kyle Tucker, who played a significant role in the early offense they used to power to the win, they would accomplish their mission.

Final Score: Astros 7, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 18-16, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Nate Pearson (0-1)

Kyle Tucker helps lead the offense to seven unanswered runs

Houston did not go easy on Nate Pearson in his 2021 debut. After a scoreless first, the Astros loaded the bases on two walks and a single, then brought the first run of the day home on an RBI walk by Michael Brantley. Another walk opened the door in the bottom of the third, and Kyle Tucker capitalized with an RBI triple to make it 2-0, followed by an RBI single by Robel Garcia to make it a three-run lead, ending Pearson's day one out into the bottom of the third.

Things didn't get easier for Toronto's pitching in the next inning, as Jose Altuve would lead off the bottom of the fourth with a solo homer. A single and a walk then set up another big hit for Kyle Tucker, a three-run dinger to make it seven unanswered runs and giving Tucker four RBI on the day.

Blue Jays pound Greinke in the fifth

After four shutout innings to start his day on the mound, working around a few hits along the way, Zack Greinke tried to cash in on his team's offense to get another win on his record. He wouldn't be able to get it done, though, as Toronto would get after him in the top of the fifth. They would score four times amongst five batters that came to the plate, with a solo homer by Rowdy Tellez, a two-RBI double by Bo Bichette, and an RBI single by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

That made it a 7-4 game, and with Greinke still not having recorded an out in the frame, Dusty Baker would lift him at 88 pitches in favor of Bryan Abreu, who would get a pop out and a double play to end the inning and keep the lead at three runs. Greinke's final line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 88 P.

Houston takes the series

No more runs would come on either side the rest of the way, with Kent Emanuel working around a single for a scoreless sixth, Ryne Stanek getting a 1-2-3 seventh, and Andre Scrubb doing the same in the eighth to set up Ryan Pressly for the save. Pressly would get the job done, sending the Blue Jays down in order, including two strikeouts to wrap up the win and giving Houston the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will stay at home to continue this homestand, welcoming in the Angels for three games starting Monday at 7:10 PM Central. The opener will feature a pitching matchup of Alex Cobb (1-2, 5.48 ERA) for Los Angeles and Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.28 ERA) for Houston.

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