HOUSTON -- Perhaps this will be the game that gets Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker going.
Tucker, who had a breakout 2020 season, had multiple extra-base hits for the first time this season with an RBI triple in the third and a three-run homer in the fourth to lead the Astros to a 7-4 win over the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
“Everything starts with one,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “All you can do is just build off that one, and go to two and three and four, and next [thing] you know, hopefully, you’ll start rolling.”
The Astros were counting on Tucker to be a potent bat in the middle of their batting order, but the first 5 1/2 weeks have been more frustrating than fruitful. Through 34 games this season, the lanky lefty is slashing .188/.258/.393 with six homers and 20 RBIs.
“I was talking to Mike [Brantley] last night after the game, and he was saying how even if guys are [doing] bad, it only takes one pitch or one AB or one game or whatever to get started on a hot streak,” Tucker said. “Hopefully, I kind of turned it around now. I’ve just [got] to keep working, and grinding, and put up some good ABs and put some runs on the board. I’m going to try to build off today and go from there.”
After walking and scoring in the second inning, Tucker ripped a hard grounder (102 mph exit velocity) through the legs of Blue Jays first baseman Rowdy Tellez in the third and wound up with a triple when third-base coach Omar Lopez waved Yuli Gurriel home from first, clearing the way for Tucker to take third. It was the first triple of the season for Tucker, who had six last year.
“It was nice to see a ball get through,” he said. “I was kind of hoping Yuli went [home]. I was seeing Omar wave him home. That’s why I went to third. It was nice to get a ball by, whether it’s a cheap hit or a bullet. Put a run up on the board and ended up scoring off Robel [Garcia’s] hit, so that was huge.”
Jose Altuve began the fourth inning with a leadoff homer. Tucker came up with two runners on base with two outs and worked a 3-0 count against reliever Anthony Key. Tucker got the green light from Lopez and teed off on a high fastball, sailing 388 feet into the upper deck in right field. The hit had an expected batting average of 1.000, based on exit velocity (104.8 mph) and launch angle (36 degrees).
“I figured I was getting a fastball over the plate, because he was trying to get back in the count,” Tucker said. “I was getting down for it, getting ready for it, and I put a good swing on it.”
The triple and homer matched the amount of extra-base hits Tucker had in his previous 22 games (70 at-bats), but it hasn’t been for a lack of hard contact. Tucker is leading the Astros and ranked 30th in the Major Leagues with an average exit velocity of 91.3 mph.
“I’ve been hitting balls decently well,” he said. “If they’re an out, it’s an out. It doesn’t matter how hard you really hit it. It was nice to get some RBIs and score a couple of runs so we could get the win.”