HOUSTON -- It was a swing that was more than eight years in the making. And it felt so good to Jon Singleton that he decided to do it again only 26 minutes later.
Singleton, the former Astros’ No. 1 prospect whose promising career was derailed because of a battle with drug addiction, found his way back to Minute Maid Park on Friday and had the game of his life. Singleton walloped a pair of long home runs, driving in a career-high five runs, to lead the Astros to an 11-3 win over the Angels.
“It’s a great feeling,” Singleton said. “It’s a place that kind of feels like home.”
Singleton’s three-run homer in the second inning off Angels starter Reid Detmers was his first in the Major Leagues since July 29, 2015 with the Astros. He went eight years and 13 days between long balls, which is the longest gap by any player since pitcher Jake Peavy went nine years, 52 days between homers from 2006-15, and the longest by a position player since Rafael Belliard had a 10-year, 144-day gap from 1987-97, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
What’s more, Singleton is the first player in history to have a multi-homer game for his first MLB homers in eight-plus years, per OptaSTATS.
“That was a great night,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “That’s a long time between big league homers. The guys were happy for him and wanted him to get another one, but we’ll take whatever we can get.”
Singleton went 3-for-4 with a single and a walk on a night the Astros reached double-digit runs without the top four hitters in their order scoring a run. But this night was about Singleton, the big man who returned to the big leagues earlier this year with Milwaukee and was released after going 3-for-29 in 11 games. He signed a Minor League deal with the Astros and appeared in 33 games at Triple-A, hitting 12 homers, before they brought him back up Tuesday.
“I’m really happy for him today,” Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander said. “Obviously, it’s been a long road and finding himself back in the big leagues and having a game like today, really special.”
Singleton was signed to a five-year, $10-million contract just before the Astros called him up to the big leagues on June 3, 2014. He struggled on the field and was slapped with multiple suspensions for marijuana use until, in 2018, following a third failed test, Houston released him. Singleton was out of organized baseball before he opened a gym in 2020 and got in shape.
Singleton had a promising stint in the Mexican League in 2021, signed a Minor League contract with the Brewers in ‘22 and endured a rollercoaster start to ‘23 that saw him on Milwaukee’s 40-man roster, then released when the club needed to free a spot, then re-signed to continue a quest to get back to the big leagues.
“It’s a great story, the fact that it happened here and he helped us win a ballgame,” Baker said.
In the second inning, Singleton crushed a 2-0 fastball and sailed it 390 feet down the right-field line to put Houston ahead, 3-1. It was his first home since he took Garrett Richards of the Angels deep in a 6-3 win in Houston in 2015. He crushed a Detmers slider in the third inning and hit an almost identical homer that traveled 389 feet. The two-run shot made it 7-2.
“That’s where I wanted to go,” Detmers said. “That’s what the scouting report said -- to go in on him. Obviously, the slider backed up a little bit. But he just got the best of me.”
When asked if he knew both homers were gone, Singleton smiled and said: “Yeah…without a doubt.”
Verlander, traded to the Astros from the Mets at the Trade Deadline, made his second start with Houston and first at home since last year’s World Series. He held the Angels to three runs and six hits and struck out seven batters in six innings for his 251st career win, tying him with Bob Gibson and CC Sabathia for 45th on the all-time list.
“The routine of things felt very familiar,” he said. “Walking out for the first time and the fan’s reaction, was really cool. I kind of put my headphones on and zone out and do my thing before I walked out on the field. Walking out here and hearing the fans’ ovation was pretty special.”
The ovations were just getting started.