Astros wrestle win away from Blue Jays
HOUSTON -- The Astros rallied for four runs in the seventh inning, including back-to-back RBI doubles by Preston Tucker and Jonathan Villar, for a 6-4 come-from-behind victory over the Blue Jays in the opening game of a four-game series Thursday night at Minute Maid Park.
"My preference would be for us to get out of the gate and not have to come back," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "That's the perfect scenario for me. This offense, the way it's built, the way we work together, the peaks and valleys, we are never out of the game."
Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion cranked back-to-back solo home runs in the first inning off Astros starter Roberto Hernandez, and built a 4-2 lead after Ezequiel Carrera hit a sac fly in the seventh.
Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison held the Astros to two runs and five hits while striking out nine in six innings. He gave up an RBI double to Luis Valbuena in the first, and Jose Altuve doubled and scored on a groundout in the sixth to cut the lead to 3-2.
"[Drew] bounced back after a little bit of a slow start, started using his changeup more and really threw a nice ballgame overall," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "It was set up for us, but that's baseball sometimes."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Astros rally in seventh: The Astros, who were 2-12 when trailing after six innings, rallied for four runs in the seventh without the benefit of a home run, which has fueled their offense. Tucker and Villar (two-run) had back-to-back RBI doubles, and Villar scored from third when Jose Altuve stole second and the ball got away.
"When we come back like that, it's usually singles, to be honest," Hinch said. "That's a good sign. Singles and doubles count, too, and we don't have to sit back and rely on the homer. We do have a threatening offense that's hard to predict when it's going to break out. It's fun when it breaks out." More >
Back-to-back jacks: The Blue Jays' sluggers made Hinch look mighty prophetic. Before the game, he mentioned that the "impressive right-handed bats" for Toronto might enjoy the short porch in left at Minute Maid Park. They didn't wait long to prove him right.
Bautista slammed his sixth home run this season on an 0-1 offering from Hernandez with one out in the first. That solo shot hit off a sign above the seats, but Encarnacion one-upped him immediately. The first baseman deposited a ball onto the train tracks the very next at-bat for his eighth homer. It was the first time Toronto has hit back-to-back home runs this season.
"You almost press repeat on his last outing. He gave up a couple of home runs early, solo homers, but he didn't melt down and didn't panic, and I would never expect him to just based on his demeanor and his tenure. He hung in there all the way through." -- Hinch, on Hernandez
"They're tough, no question. A good team, a dangerous team with a lot of speed on the basepaths, and that's why they're sitting where they are in [their division]." -- Gibbons, on the Astros
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Altuve's six intentional walks are tied for the Major League lead with Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers.
Despite a nice start to the season in Houston, Colby Rasmus' first meeting against his former team did not go well. The former Blue Jays center fielder went 0-for-4 and struck out three times. More >
GREGERSON UNAVAILABLE AGAIN
Astros closer Luke Gregerson, who saved Wednesday's win in his first appearance back from the family emergency leave list, was away from the team again Thursday, Hinch said. Gregerson should join the team Friday, and won't have to leave again. Chad Qualls closed out the game in Gregerson's place.
Blue Jays: Toronto turns to R.A. Dickey (1-4, 5.00 ERA) on Friday night at 8:10 p.m. ET as he looks to rebound from a rough outing against Boston. Dickey's six-run, three-walk effort on May 10 was emblematic of his slow start to this season, in that home runs did him in. With a hitter's park like Minute Maid Park, the knuckleballer may need to tighten up on the long ball.
Astros: Ace lefty Dallas Keuchel (4-0, 1.39 ERA) looks to stay unbeaten when he takes the mound to face the Blue Jays at 7:10 p.m. CT on Friday. He's won a career-high six consecutive decisions and has gone 6-0 with a 1.65 ERA in his last 12 starts. The Astros are 11-1 in those starts.
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