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Red-hot Springer leads Astros over D-backs

May 31, 2016

PHOENIX -- George Springer went 3-for-4 and drove in four runs as the Astros beat the D-backs, 8-5, on Tuesday afternoon at Chase Field to take the two-game series before the teams begin another two-game set Wednesday at Minute Maid Park.Springer got the Astros' offense going with a three-run homer

PHOENIX -- George Springer went 3-for-4 and drove in four runs as the Astros beat the D-backs, 8-5, on Tuesday afternoon at Chase Field to take the two-game series before the teams begin another two-game set Wednesday at Minute Maid Park.
Springer got the Astros' offense going with a three-run homer in the second, and Houston then put together a four-run rally in the fourth to build a 7-2 lead. The victory was the fourth in a row for the Astros, their longest winning streak of the season. They've won seven of their past eight.
Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Springer and other #ASGWorthy players
"We swung the bats pretty well," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "The top of the order -- George is swinging the bat very well, [Jose] Altuve always swings the bat well. We got a little bit of contribution from the bottom of the order. [Luis] Valbuena's homer proved to be pretty big.
"We have a fun team. When our offense gets going and we find ways to get hits and not just homers, which I know is a broken record, I've been saying that for a couple of months, but we can put up some runs."
Astros starter Lance McCullers (2-1) allowed a pair of first-inning runs, but it could have been worse as he stranded the bases loaded in the frame. The right-hander managed to only allow one more in tossing five innings.
"We're playing with more confidence," McCullers said. "It's as simple as that. You see guys taking really confident ABs, guys pitching with a lot of confidence. We're just starting to hit on all points of the game when we need to."
The D-backs made things interesting in the ninth, scoring a pair of runs on a Jean Segura double, but Houston closer Luke Gregerson came on and struck out three straight batters to end the game.

"I know it's not easy when you get down in a game, but I thought they did a better job today of continuing to push the at-bats, and we got into their bullpen a little bit, and that will help tomorrow and the next day," D-backs manager Chip Hale said.

Springer stays hot: Springer has been on fire since he moved to the leadoff spot last week, hitting .457 (16-for-35) with three homers, eight RBIs and a 1.313 OPS since making the move on May 24. He doubled in the first inning, blasted a two-out, three-run homer in the second and added an RBI single in the fourth.

"His job to be a leadoff hitter is to be a good hitter first," Hinch said. "What comes with that is a better hitter than when he tries to do too much and get too big. Whether it's mental or physical, I don't really care. I like the look of it, and I think he's made a conscious adjustment to try to set the table for Altuve, [Carlos] Correa, etc." More >
Missed opportunities: The D-backs had a chance to take control of the game early, but they managed just two runs in the first while leaving the bases loaded. They also had the bases loaded with one out in the fifth and got just one run thanks to a wild pitch.

"There's times with guys in scoring position where our at-bats aren't as good as other times," Hale said. "But it's stuff we're working on." More >
Gold standard:Paul Goldschmidt collected his first three-hit game of the season, going 3-for-4 with three singles. After a slow start, Goldschmidt is 16-for-37 (.432) over his past 11 games. If the D-backs have any hope of getting back into the postseason hunt, they'll need Goldschmidt to continue hitting.

McCullers finishes five to escape jam: McCullers overcame a 31-pitch first inning and worked his way through five innings, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the fifth by getting strikeouts of Brandon Drury and Chris Herrmann to end the inning. He threw 96 pitches and walked four hitters against seven strikeouts.

"Everything single first inning I've been in this year has been a chore," McCullers said. "[I'm] frustrated because I know I have good stuff. You saw it in the second, third, fourth. It got away from me a little bit in the fifth, and I regained it. But those were really good innings. And then in the first inning, I don't know if it's I'm not attacking the zone, I'm not aggressive or what but I'm putting myself in a hole early every game. [I've got to] clean that up a little bit."
"We can pretend it's May tomorrow and we can move to June and continue the momentum into another good month," -- Hinch, on his team's 17-12 record in May
Astros reliever Michael Feliz walked the first batter he faced in the sixth. He had struck out 29 batters without a walk since April 26, a span of 16 2/3 innings.
The Astros have scored eight runs in three consecutive games for the first time since June 16-18, 2015, against the Rockies.
Astros: Right-hander Mike Fiers (3-3, 5.20 ERA) will start for the Astros in Wednesday's 7:10 p.m. CT game at Minute Maid Park against the D-backs. Fiers is coming off his worst outing of the season, allowing seven runs and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings Friday in Anaheim. He is 3-2 with a 4.04 ERA overall at home.
D-backs: Left-hander Robbie Ray (2-4, 4.67 ERA) will start for the D-backs on Wednesday at 5:10 p.m. MST when they open a two-game series with the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Ray is 1-1 with a 4.30 ERA in three career starts against the Astros.
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Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.