Astros’ stars shine bright in win No. 50

Bregman, Cole, Reddick have big nights vs. Bucs

June 26th, 2019

HOUSTON -- returned to the Astros’ lineup for the first time since May 24 and got a seventh-inning single, socked his team-leading 22nd homer in the sixth and got the best of the team that traded him away 1 1/2 years ago.

The Astros, having brushed aside a 1-6 road trip, returned to Minute Maid Park on Tuesday and rode the pitching of Cole and homers by Bregman and to beat the Pirates, 5-1, for their 50th win of the season.

Houston is the third American League to reach 50 wins, joining the Yankees and Twins. This marks the fourth time in franchise history that the Astros have reached 50 wins before the midpoint of the season (1979, 2017-19).

Here are three key takeaways from win No. 50 for the Astros:

Remember me?

Cole, facing the Pirates for the first time since they traded him to the Astros on Jan. 13, 2018, in exchange for four players -- all of whom were in uniform for Pittsburgh on Tuesday -- held his former teammates to one run and seven hits in six innings.

“It was unique,” Cole said. “There’s a lot of memories you have leading up to the start. Always facing a former catcher is always interesting. I’m asking asking myself, ‘Does [Elias Diaz] know what I’m going to throw here cause we’ve talked a lot'? There’s things like that that come up. The Josh Bell battle was really fun. He was swinging at everything, and I was throwing everything.”

Cole had to get creative when the Pirates repeatedly laid off his elevated fastball. They were putting together good at-bats, forcing Cole to mix his breaking pitches and changeup to navigate through a pesky lineup. Cole, who entered the game with a Major League-leading 148 strikeouts, had a season-low three on Tuesday.

“It was pretty clear by the end of the day the high fastball was a pitch they were trying to eliminate for the most part,” Cole said. “With that said, we still got them to expand a ton. A few balls found holes. A few balls weren’t hit that hard. A few balls were hit that hard. I think it all ended up evening out and they put together a lot of tough at-bats and they deserve a lot of credit for putting the bat on the ball. And our defense deserves a lot of credit for making some great plays.”

You want him on that wall

No one plays the right-field wall at Minute Maid Park better than , who robbed an opposing player of a homer for the second time this year with a well-timed catch of a Starling Marte fly ball to lead off the fourth inning. Reddick is one of seven Astros who is a finalist in the Starters Election for the All-Star Game, for which voting begins today at 11 a.m. CT.

“When the ball’s hit nowadays you think homer,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “Not because of anything they were doing on the mound, but just strictly because the ball carries to the wall.”

Reddick said he had to take an abrupt and awkward left turn at the wall, but he was able to make the catch. He robbed the Rangers’ Hunter Pence of a homer earlier this year.

“It was hit fairly high, so I had plenty of time to get back there and make the adjustment,” Reddick said.

Reddick contributed at the plate, too, going 2-for-3 with an infield single in the fourth and a leadoff double in the seventh. He scored on a Robinson Chirinos sacrifice fly to give the Astros a 4-1 lead. He has had multiple hits in three of his past five games.

Into the Crawford Boxes

Gurriel put the Astros ahead, 2-0, in the fourth when he turned on a high fastball from Trevor Williams and sent it into the Crawford Boxes on a line for his seventh homer. The ball left the park in a hurry, reaching an apex of 69 feet, while traveling 392 feet.

“Yuli’s homer was a very good approach on a fastball pitcher who was pitching a little differently than he does in the National League,” Hinch said. “He threw us a lot more breaking balls than he’s throwing those guys over in the National League. We had to make some adjustments because we didn’t have a lot of experience facing him. Yuli hunted fastball, got fastball and kept it fair.”

Bregman’s homer to lead off the sixth, however, was a towering shot -- 140 feet at the apex, with a 42-degree launch angle, which traveled 351 feet and put the Astros ahead 3-1. Bregman (3-for-4) also doubled and singled and has reached base safely in 26 consecutive Interleague games -- the longest active streak in the Majors.

“I was super happy with the double,” Bregman said. “I need to continue to hit line drives and keep the ball on the line and spray it around the field.”