Houston takes the series 3-1

Astros take series against Mariners after big offensive showing

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

A day after their first loss of the 2020 season and the loss of Justin Verlander to injury, temporarily at least, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park for the fourth and final game of the series against the Mariners. Josh James was on the mound making his first start of the year looking to provide some confidence in a pitching staff now down its cornerstone. Here is how he and Houston did on Monday:

Final Score: Astros 8, Mariners 5.

Record: 3-1, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Brandon Bielak (1-0, 2.70 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Kendall Graveman (0-1, 13.50 ERA).

James only goes three, but Altuve and Bregman get him off the hook

Josh James struggled to throw strikes on Monday, resulting in a short start when the Astros needed to find a way to conserve arms with the newly announced absence of Justin Verlander. James recorded a couple of strikeouts, worked around a walk and a single in the first, and then struck out the side to work around a hit-by-pitch in the second.

The third inning would quickly fall apart, though, as James started it off by walking the bases loaded with no outs. He would get a much-needed double play which brought in a run, but instead of stopping the damage there, allowed a two-run homer to make it a 3-0 Seattle advantage. James would walk one more batter before recording a strikeout, but with his volatile command and high pitch count, he would see that be the end of his day. James' final line: 3.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 5 K, 1 HR.

Luckily for him, his offense would have a big third inning of their own. After getting two on base with an error and a walk, Jose Altuve would come through with an RBI-double to get one of the runs back. That brought Alex Bregman to the plate, who took advantage and launched his 100th-career home run, a go-ahead three-run homer to give Houston a 4-3 lead.

Bielak makes his debut as Astros extend the lead

Brandon Bielak went to the mound in the top of the fourth to make his major-league debut and start the night for the bullpen. Bielak was impressive in his first inning, getting two quick outs before recording a strikeout to send the Mariners down 1-2-3 on just nine pitches. He returned for the fifth, and once again retired Seattle in order.

Meanwhile, the Astros were able to add to their lead. Dustin Garneau, making his debut behind the plate for the Astros, made it 5-3 with a two-out RBI-triple in the bottom of the fourth. Jose Altuve added another RBI to his game, hitting a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the fifth. They kept tacking on, with Michael Brantley hitting into the right-field corner for an RBI-double, and Josh Reddick doing the same a few batters later, pushing the lead to five runs at 8-3.

Bielak would continue his debut in the top of the sixth and worked around his first baserunners to erase a double and single by getting a big strikeout to keep it a five-run game. In the seventh, he would stay on the mound to keep eating up innings, but after reaching 53 pitches and allowing two runs, one unearned on an error, he would see his night end, though it would still go down as an impressive first appearance. Enoli Paredes would get two strikeouts to finish the inning.

Houston locks up the series win

Cy Sneed was next out of Houston's bullpen, and he worked around a two-out walk to maintain the three-run lead. Roberto Osuna would come in for the save in the top of the ninth and would record his first of the season by keeping Seattle off the board to secure the series win.

Up Next: The Astros will turn the page to the next series of 2020, a quick two-game set against the Dodgers in Houston. The series opener will be Tuesday at 8:10 PM Central from Minute Maid Park and will feature the pitching matchup of Framber Valdez for the Astros going opposite of Walker Buehler for the Dodgers.

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Houston scored in droves

Astros drub Twins in finale to take series win

Houston's offense showered Minnesota with hits in Sunday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games, with Houston's offense uncharacteristically ineffective in the loss on Saturday, they tried to turn things around with a win to take the series on Sunday. The Astros would bounce right back at the plate, getting hits and runs all through the afternoon to rout the Twins.

Final Score: Astros 14, Twins 3

Astros' Record: 37-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (3-0)

Losing Pitcher: Michael Pineda (3-4)

Valdez keeps rolling

Framber Valdez continued to impress in 2021 after starting his season on the IL, posting another quality start with a win against the Twins. After four scoreless frames, he allowed a solo homer to start the bottom of the fifth, just the third hit of the game for Minnesota to that point. He went on to retire the next three batters to get through the inning.

He faltered a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff double followed by a single, with a run coming across on an error on that play. He once again rebounded to finish that frame, then put up a 1-2-3 seventh to finish his day off, notching another quality start and a win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 97 P.

Houston keeps their foot on the gas

While Valdez's outing was a highlight of its own, Houston's offense was the story of the day. They put their foot down on the pedal all day and did not let up, starting in the top of the first when Jose Altuve turned the first pitch of the game around for a single, later scoring on a sac fly by Alex Bregman to put the Astros in front 1-0.

After two scoreless innings, they got right back on the scoreboard in the fourth with a two-run homer by Kyle Tucker, then kept pouring it on with two runs in the fifth on a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel and an error, making it 5-0 at the time. The runs kept coming in the top of the sixth, with a two-RBI double by Michael Brantley, who would score later on a two-run bomb by Yordan Alvarez. Then, in the top of the seventh, Brantley struck again to push it to double-digits with a two-RBI single to make it 11-2 and give Brantley 4 RBI on the afternoon.

With Houston swapping out starters with the hefty lead, even their pinch-hitters were getting involved, with Chas McCormick leading the top of the eighth off with a solo shot to make it a ten-run game. They then loaded the bases with no outs, setting up a sac fly for Myles Straw to make it 13-2.

Astros take the series

In the bottom of the eighth, Ralph Garza Jr. came in as the first reliever out of the bullpen for Houston. He recorded two quick outs but then met Nelson Cruz, who lasered a solo homer to put it back at a ten-run game before finishing the frame. Houston put their twentieth hit on the board in the top of the ninth, their highest total this season, en route to another scoring inning with a sac fly by Robel Garcia to make it 14-3. Garza came in for his second inning of work to wrap things up in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Astros a successful end to this series and road trip.

Up Next: Houston will travel home before an off day on Monday to rest before 20 days of consecutive games. They'll kick off a six-game homestand on Tuesday, welcoming in the Rangers for two starting at 7:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.96 ERA) will make his return from the IL for the Astros, though Jake Odorizzi will "piggy-back" him, and Kyle Gibson (4-0, 2.13 ERA) will take the mound for Texas.

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