HOUSTON -- The resurgence of Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker comes with a warning.
“If you look at our lineup, one through nine can rake,” he said. “I kind of feel bad for a lot of teams that come in and have to face us, because it’s never like you can take a pitch off when you’re facing us. Everyone is just an All-Star here.”
The Angels couldn’t even argue that point after watching the Astros set a season high by clubbing five home runs to overcome an injury-abbreviated start from José Urquidy and take the series finale, 9-1, on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.
"Their whole lineup is full of good hitters,” said Angels starter Andrew Heaney, who gave up three homers. “There's definitely guys in any lineup that you kind of got to say like, 'I don't want this guy to beat me.' But what makes those guys really good is even when you don't want them to beat you, they still find a way to.”
Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel (who left the game with an illness) and Tucker blasted homers off Heaney, and Yordan Alvarez and Chas McCormick tagged lefty reliever Patrick Sandoval. The Astros have bashed 16 home runs in their last seven games, including a four-homer game against the Yankees on May 6 at Yankee Stadium. Prior to that, Houston had homered 10 times in its previous 18 games.
“Homers come in bunches,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We were going to some ballparks that weren’t really home run friendly and the ones that were friendly, like Coors Field, it was extremely cold and snowing, even. You just can’t hit homers when you want to hit them. It seems like it’s contagious.”
Altuve hit a first-pitch homer off Heaney to lead off the game, and Gurriel added a two-run homer later in the first. Tucker, who’s on a 7-for-13 rampage, ended Heaney’s night with a towering two-run homer in the sixth that made it 5-0. The ball traveled 416 feet into the upper deck in right field.
“Curveball, first pitch, middle in,” Tucker said. “I got down early and squared it up and it went over. It felt good. I’ve been swinging the bat pretty well lately and I’m swinging at better pitches over the plate lately. You get better outcomes and I've been kind of doing that a little bit more, and that’s definitely helped me in the last couple of games.”
Tucker was slashing .175/.242/.342 on Saturday but has raised his season numbers to .213/.285/.457 with his performance this week. He’s still got a few mountains to climb, but it’s an extremely positive development for the Astros.
“He didn’t take a day to get in this mess and it’s going to take probably equal or longer to get out of it,” Baker said. “It starts at day No. 1, just like your slump starts at day No. 1. Everything starts at one … next thing you know you’re rolling.”
Alvarez hit a 404-foot homer to right in the eighth, and McCormick hit a three-run shot later in the inning. The five homers traveled a total of 1,942 feet.
The Astros’ plus-44 run differential is second-best in the Majors behind the White Sox (plus-64). The Astros are plus-45 in their last 20 games, during which they’ve gone 13-7. They entered Wednesday ranked second in the American League in runs, hits, doubles, batting average and OPS and third in on-base percentage. They’ve also struck out the fewest times in the AL.
“We’re swinging the bat really well lately and we’ve been doing it for a good amount of the season,” Tucker said. “When everyone’s locked in, we put up a lot of runs and it gives us a good chance of winning.”
You’ve been warned.