ALTUVE WITH TWO BOMBS

Altuve homers off Eovaldi in first 2 at-bats to lead Astros over Rangers

Astros Jose Altuve
Altuve is on fire! Composite Getty Image.

Jose Altuve homered off Nathan Eovaldi in his first two at-bats and Cristian Javier pitched seven strong innings to lead the Houston Astros to an 8-5 win over the Texas Rangers on Sunday.

After dropping the series opener 12-8, the Astros have won back-to-back games following a 4-11 start that left them seven games under .500 for the first time since 2016. They improved to 4-3 against AL West rival Texas this season.

Javier (2-0) allowed five hits and two runs with five strikeouts to give Houston a second straight solid pitching performance after dismal outings by its starters in the previous three games.

Marcus Semien hit a three-run homer off Seth Martinez with two outs in the ninth to cut the lead to 8-5. Josh Hader struck out Corey Seager to end it.

It was the 11th multi-homer game for Altuve, and his seven career home runs off Eovaldi are his most against any pitcher.

“He’s that kind of guy that it doesn’t matter what you do, you don’t really want to face him very often,” Altuve said. “He’s great. That’s why he’s one of the best guys out there. So today you might hit a homer but the next game he might strike you out three times. With him you never know.”

Altuve sent Eovaldi’s third pitch off the foul pole in left field for his 36th career leadoff homer, which ranks third in franchise history.

There was one out in the third when Altuve connected again, sending a fastball into the seats in left to make it 2-0. Eovaldi slumped his shoulders and shouted something as the ball sailed away. Altuve grinned as he rounded the bases and flexed both biceps as he reached the end of the dugout.

“Every time you do something to help your team, especially with the situation we were in a few days ago, it feels good,” Altuve said. “We're trying to click as a team, flip things around, start winning, and it’s always good to do stuff like that.”

Altuve also singled in his second consecutive game with three hits. He's reached base safely in all 17 games to start the season.

“It’s impressive how he’s able to get barrel to some tough pitches,” Houston manager Joe Espada said. “When the pitcher thinks that he’s executed a pitch, Altuve is getting the barrel and hitting the ball out of the ballpark, getting singles. Pretty impressive what he does.”

Eovaldi (1-1) yielded eight hits and five runs in six innings.

“Overall, I felt really good today,” he said. “I made some really good pitches and they had good at-bats and I felt like they hit tough pitches.”

Evan Carter hit a solo homer and Semien added an RBI double for the World Series champion Rangers, who have dropped three of four.

Carter got his team’s first hit with his home run to right-center with one out in the fourth that cut the lead to 2-1.

Chas McCormick and Jeremy Peña singled to start the Houston fourth before an RBI double by Victor Caratini made it 3-1. There were two outs in the inning when a double by Mauricio Dubón scored two more to extend the lead to 5-1.

Leody Taveras doubled with one out in the fifth before scoring on the double by Semien to get Texas to 5-2.

McCormick drove in two runs with a double in Houston's three-run seventh that pushed the lead to 8-2.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rangers: Placed LHP Cody Bradford on the 15-day injured list, retroactive to Thursday, with a low back strain. RHP Cole Winn was called up from Triple-A Round Rock.

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (right shoulder inflammation) allowed seven hits and six runs — five earned — in four innings of a rehabilitation start for Double-A Corpus Christi on Saturday night. Espada said the team will see how Verlander feels Monday before deciding the next step for the three-time Cy Young Award winner. … LHP Framber Valdez (left elbow inflammation) said he’s feeling much better and plans to start playing catch Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Rangers: Had not yet announced a starting pitcher for the opener of a four-game series Monday night at Detroit.

Astros: RHP Spencer Arrighetti (0-1, 21.00 ERA) will make his second major league start Monday night in the opener of a three-game series against Atlanta.

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Astros defeat the A's, 6-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer to highlight Houston's six-run fourth inning that backed Justin Verlander's winning start, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.

Verlander (3-2) struck out nine over six innings to increase hit total to 3,377, passing Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (3,371) for 10th on the career strikeouts list. He gave up two runs — one earned — on eight hits and didn't walk a batter for a second straight start and seventh time this year.

After another milestone to add to a long list of them, Verlander wasn't sure exactly how to feel.

“I feel like I should be more excited but I feel like I’m a little more introspective and reflective,” Verlander said. “A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from the family, but I love it, so it’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball if I’d thought I’d be in the top-10 in anything. This sport’s been around for so long. Hard to put into words, but a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts went through my mind.”

When his teammates celebrated him once the special outing had ended, Verlander allowed himself to ponder the meaning.

Verlander remembers his first strikeout and he recalls one against Hall of Fame slugger Frank Thomas here at the Coliseum — and the pitcher wears No. 35 because of Thomas.

“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

A's manager Mark Kotsay, a former Oakland outfielder, has been witness to some of those.

“He’s just tough. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and he executes it really well," Kotsay said. "He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.”

Yordan Alvarez added an RBI double and Josh Hader finished the 2-hour, 31-minute game with his seventh save for the Astros, who began a seven-game road trip.

After right-hander Ross Stripling (1-9) retired the first nine Houston hitters in order, Jose Altuve singled to start the fourth for the first of four straight hits that included Alex Bregman's two-run single.

The A's drew an announced crowd of 9,676 for the series opener after winning two of three against Colorado following an eight-game losing streak.

Miguel Andujar came off the injured list and immediately hit an RBI single in the first off Verlander and finished with three hits in his A's and season debut — including another run-scoring single in the seventh.

Andjuar's RBI marked the first time the A's have scored first in 18 games — ending the longest streak in franchise history. Batting cleanup, he also singled in the third.

Astros left fielder Chas McCormick robbed Max Schuemann of an extra-base hit when he crashed into the wall to make a great catch ending the eighth.

“That was a big play at the moment,” manager Joe Espada said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP José Urquidy was pulled from his rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land because of right forearm discomfort. He has been on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. ... 1B José Abreu is scheduled to rejoin the club Monday in Seattle after playing at least two games with Triple-A Sugar Land as he works to regain his hitting rhythm.

Athletics: Andujar had been sidelined all season after having meniscus surgery on his right knee. He was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Nov. 6. Oakland created roster room by optioning INF Brett Harris to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UP NEXT

RHP Spencer Arrighetti (2-4, 7.16 ERA) pitches for the Astros in the middle game opposite A's LHP JP Sears (3-3, 4.31).

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