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4 Astros homers back Peacock's 12-K strut

Brantley goes deep twice, Peacock logs career-high 12 strikeouts
@brianmctaggart
May 9, 2019

HOUSTON -- Coming off a blowout loss to the Royals, the first-place Astros got back on track in impressive fashion on Wednesday night, led by a stellar performance from starting pitcher Brad Peacock and an early power surge from their big bats. Peacock and reliever Josh James combined to strike

HOUSTON -- Coming off a blowout loss to the Royals, the first-place Astros got back on track in impressive fashion on Wednesday night, led by a stellar performance from starting pitcher Brad Peacock and an early power surge from their big bats.

Peacock and reliever Josh James combined to strike out 17 batters in a three-hit shutout and designated hitter Michael Brantley swatted two of Houston’s four homers in a 9-0 win over the Royals in the rubber game at Minute Maid Park.

Outfielder George Springer hit his 28th career leadoff homer and shortstop Carlos Correa also homered to give the Astros 16 home runs in their last five games. Every starter had a hit, with the exception of third baseman Alex Bregman, who contributed a walk and a sacrifice fly.

Box score

“It’s daunting task to get through our lineup, especially when you see the energy level and the at-bats are good,” manager AJ Hinch said.

Here are three takeaways from the win:

Stretch works for Peacock
Peacock, who was rocked for seven runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Twins on Thursday, returned to pitching out of the full windup for the first time in three years and struck out a career-high 12 batters in seven innings.

“That's the story of the day for me was the adjustment he made in his delivery,” Hinch said. “Out of the windup is much more rhythm, much more energy. The ball came out better, his execution was better, and ultimately his results were better. That’s as good as he’s gotten into a game and he held it his entire outing.”

At the suggestion of pitching coach Brent Strom, Peacock began working out of the windup for the first time since 2016. Since then, he had pitched exclusively of the stretch while he bounced between the rotation and bullpen in '17, a season in relief last year and a return to the rotation this season. He threw 65 of his 98 pitches for strikes.

“What I was doing wasn’t working too well and I had to make a change,” Peacock said. “I felt really good tonight. I felt like I was able to get some rhythm out there and throw my stuff for strikes.”

Brantley a hit at DH
The veteran outfielder doesn’t necessarily enjoy being the designated hitter, but he’s certainly grown to be adept at the role. He went 2-for-3 with homers in consecutive at-bats in the third and fourth innings. Thirteen of his last 15 hits have gone for extra bases.

“He’s a pretty good DH and I remind him every time he does something positive,” Hinch said.

In six starts as the designated hitter this season, Brantley is 11-for-23 (.478) with three doubles, three homers and seven RBIs. Brantley drew a walk in his first at-bat in the first inning before hitting two homers to right field -- a two-run shot in the Astros’ five-run third and a solo homer in the fourth.

“I haven’t done it a lot, so it’s trying to get in a rhythm and trying to get into a routine, try not to hit too much, try to make sure I’m ready, try to stay in the game mentally,” Brantley said. “Just kind of working through it, and luckily enough I’m putting up some good at-bats right now.”

Bottoms up
With outfielder Josh Reddick getting most of his at-bats in the No. 6 hole in the last two weeks and first baseman Yuli Gurriel dropping primarily to the seventh spot in the order, the Astros boast one of the most productive top six hitters in baseball. But the bottom of the order was no pushover on Wednesday.

Gurriel went 2-for-4 with a run scored, left fielder Aledmys Diaz had a hit and a sacrifice fly, and catcher Max Stassi was 1-for-3 with an RBI. Gurriel is heating up a little bit, going 8-for-20 (.400) in his last five games.

“When these guys don’t get hits they get frustrated and they start swinging at anything to put balls in play, and it spirals into a rut,” Hinch said. “But I don’t think [Gurriel] shows up any day feeling pressure. It’s more about him feeling he’s got himself under control in the batter’s box. You get a few hits and get rewarded, life’s good.”

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.