MONTERREY, Mexico -- Technically, these are road games for the Astros. But a quick glance at what was going on in the stands at Estadio de Beisbol on Saturday told a much different story.
Astros fans travel well and, apparently, that extends beyond the U.S. border. Saturday’s game between the Astros and Angels -- a 14-2 blowout win by the “road” team -- featured, in addition to a potent Houston offense and a solid outing by lefty Wade Miley, a jarring visual throughout the stands.
That’s what happens when thousands of people wear bright orange all at the same time.
“I wasn’t surprised, because our fans travel and this is an easy team to like,” Houston manager AJ Hinch said. “We have a great culture and it fits perfectly with our culture here. I kind of thought we might have a little bit of a good vibe here. The fans showed up. I saw a lot of Astros jerseys, a lot of throwback jerseys. They were really loud for our guys. You saw at that hotel, you see it at the ballpark. The energy was incredible.”
Monterrey, in northern Mexico, is about a seven-hour drive from Houston, and a flight takes less than an hour. That might have had something to do with the large contingent of Astros fans who showed up for Saturday night’s game.
But it’s more likely that a lineup filled with All-Stars, most of whom were with the team two years ago when it captured its first World Series title, is responsible for the ongoing enthusiasm from the ever-expanding fanbase. In the opening game of the Mexico Series, the players in the dugout felt the energy.
“The fans are incredible,” said Alex Bregman, Saturday's offensive leader with three hits, two homers and four RBIs. “The atmosphere’s great. Every game feels like a playoff atmosphere. Just love playing the game in front of people that love the game, you know? We’re extremely blessed to play in front of fans like that.”
The Astros rewarded their fans with an offensive display that began in the first inning and barely let up by the ninth. Houston scored in every inning but two, blasting 14 hits and five home runs. Contributions were plentiful throughout the lineup, including from Yuli Gurriel, who was mired in a slump heading into the series.
Gurriel tripled in his first at-bat and homered in his second, breaking an 0-for-11 streak that included a dismal showing during the Astros’ recent four-game series in Minneapolis.
“Today was a great day, and hopefully the start of another streak,” Gurriel said through a translator.
Before the game, Hinch made a comment about Gurriel that ended up being prophetic: “He’s a good game away from feeling better and he’s certainly a dangerous hitter every time he goes up there,” he said. “The hits are coming.”
They did, in bunches, a couple of hours later.
“Yuli hits line drives all over the field,” Bregman said. “He’s been hitting since he was a baby. This is his 17th professional season. He’s a stud. We never worry about him. We know he’s going to put together a good at-bat, hit the ball hard.”
Same goes for most of the Astros lineup, which may not want to leave Monterrey if it has another game like this on Sunday.
“We talked before the game about how you should get rewarded for getting a good pitch and hitting the ball hard,” Hinch said. “Not trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark. And what happens? The ball goes really far. We did a good job of hitting incredibly hard the whole night. I’m very proud of our offense.”