Trio of Astros stand out in opener win over A's

May 20th, 2023

HOUSTON -- The Astros welcomed back to their starting lineup for in the first time in 2023, continued to swing a hot bat and struck out nine batters in five innings to send Houston to its fifth consecutive win, 5-1, over the A’s on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

Here’s a closer look three storylines from the Astros’ eighth win in their last nine games:

Tucker stays hot
Tucker, who had a walk-off hit to cap Wednesday’s frantic comeback win over the Cubs, went 2-for-3 with a home run, a double and three RBIs -- and it happened on Kyle Tucker bobblehead night. Tucker is hitting .355 (11-for-31) with five doubles and eight RBIs in his last eight games.

“The last couple of games, I’ve felt a little better at the plate with something I’ve been doing in the cage and trying to bring it out to the field,” he said. “I feel good at the plate right now.”

An RBI double in the fourth inning put the Astros ahead, 2-1, and Tucker added a two-run homer to right field in the sixth inning -- his seventh of the season.

“I’m not chasing a whole lot and trying to get some good pitches over the middle of the plate to try and drive,” he said. “With the guys in front of me getting on base, it makes it a little easier because [opposing pitchers] have to be over the plate, rather than continue to pitch around me and walk me and get more guys on. The guys in front of me have been doing a good job putting up good at-bats and putting me in position to hit.”

Altuve hitless in return
The roar of the crowd when he was introduced prior to his first at-bat might have been the highlight of the night for Altuve, who played in his first game of the season after fracturing his right thumb during the World Baseball Classic in March. Altuve grounded out to third base on the first pitch he saw, kicking off an 0-for-4 night at the top of Houston’s order.

“He was pretty good,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He saw a lot of pitches. It’s his first day back, and you figure he’s going to be a little rusty, but he’ll get better daily. The main thing is he came out after the game feeling good.”

After hitting into a double play in the third and grounding out in the fifth, Altuve had the crowd on its feet when he came to bat with the bases loaded in the sixth. But facing former Astros teammate Austin Pruitt, Altuve popped out. He drew a walk in the eighth inning.

“Everybody was pleased,” Baker said. “You figured he’d be a little rusty, but that rust will subside and come off the more at-bats he has and the more he plays.”

Changeup boosts Bielak
Making his third start of the season after being thrust into the rotation when the Astros lost starting pitchers José Urquidy and Luis Garcia to injury in consecutive starts earlier this month, Bielak struck out a career-high nine batters and allowed one run and five hits in five innings.

“To get through the fifth inning was pretty crucial coming off an off-day,” Bielak said. “I’m feeling good. I’m pushing 90 pitches my past few outings. Obviously, the fifth inning, walking the first two guys didn’t make a case to push into the sixth inning, but I’m looking forward to going past the fifth inning in my next few starts.”

The key for Bielak was his changeup, which he used to strike out six batters. He generated a career-high 17 whiffs, including 10 on his changeup. Two of his strikeouts came to strand the bases loaded in the first after the A’s hit two singles on his first two pitches of the game and Shea Langeliers took a one-out walk.

“That’s a great pitch if you can command it, and he commanded it tonight at the right time,” Baker said. “It got him out of trouble, especially early in the game quite often. That was huge, especially to get out of that bases-loaded first inning. He was good, he had a lot of strikeouts, kept us in the game and got the win.”