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Valbuena's pop lifts Astros in Altuve's return

HOUSTON -- Luis Valbuena homered twice and knocked in four runs and Hank Conger added a solo shot as the Astros stayed just out of the Rockies' reach in an 8-5 win on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park in the second of a four-game home-and-home series.

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The Astros, who went deep three times in a 6-3 victory over the Rockies on Tuesday, are 25-0 in games when they hit multiple homers.

"That's how we've been playing all year long -- hitting in bunches and guys coming through, we just need that momentum to kind of roll," Conger said. "Hitting is contagious. People tell you it isn't, but guys get in grooves."

Valbuena homered for one run in the second and three in the third -- when the Astros scored five times to overcome a 3-1 deficit. Both blasts came off Rockies starter Chris Rusin (2-2), who yielded seven runs and nine hits in four innings. Valbuena's game-turning shot was a fly that barely landed in the Crawford Boxes in left, but Rusin said it was appropriate payment for poor location.

"I tried to go in but I left it middle, and he was able to inside-out it to left field to the short porch," Rusin said. "If I make my pitch there, he either grounds out or it jams him.

Carlos Gonzalez's eighth homer of the season provided two fifth-inning runs and chased Astros righty starter Vince Velasquez after 4 2/3 innings. But Will Harris (3-0) stabilized the contest with 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Chad Qualls came up big in the eighth, when he forced DJ LeMahieu into a fielder's choice grounder with the potential tying run at the plate.

Video: [email protected]: Five Astros cross the plate in 3rd inning

Clutch third: With the Astros trailing, 3-2, and two outs in the third, Conger worked the count full, then laced an RBI single. Domingo Santana followed with his first Major League hit, also a two-strike knock, to score Evan Gattis before Valbuena's second home run blew the game open.

"To be able to put that type of number up -- that game was obviously slow and a lot of activity -- to put that big number up at home I think put a lot of confidence in our dugout and put them behind the eight-ball," said Houston manager A.J. Hinch. More >

Video: [email protected]: Santana gives Astros lead on single to right

It's the little things: The Rockies counterpunched against the Astros' potent offense, but were hurt by two costly miscues. In the first, first-base umpire Bob Davidson called Rusin for a balk that moved George Springer to second. He would score on Jose Altuve's single. In the fifth with Colorado facing a four-run deficit, Charlie Blackmon tried to take second on Corey Dickerson's deep fly ball, but Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick threw him out easily. The inning included Troy Tulowitzki's single and Gonzalez's two-run shot -- either of which could have driven in Blackmon.

Video: [email protected]: CarGo blasts two-run homer off Velasquez

Altuve's back: Altuve, who said before the game his strained right hamstring felt 100 percent, cranked an RBI single on the fifth pitch he saw, plating George Springer for the game's first run and the Astros' eighth first-inning run in the last three games. He drew a walk and came around to score in the third before he was robbed of another hit by third baseman Nolan Arenado's spectacular diving double play in the fourth.

"I talked to him during the game and he assured me he was really just guarded more than anything else. I'd rather him be guarded than overextending himself," Hinch said. "Obviously, he wasn't running with the burst of speed that everyone's used to. I'll check with him, we'll get on an airplane. I'm not sure what I'm going to do the next day or two with him. He feels fine, he was just going to make sure there was no mishap today." More >

Video: [email protected]: Altuve drives in Springer on single to left

Warmed by the glow of highlights: Arenado continued his year of highlight packages with two dazzlers -- a diving grab of an Altuve ground smash to start a fourth-inning double play, and a foul-ground laser throw to retire Evan Gattis at first in the sixth.

Video: [email protected]: Arenado dives, starts double play from knees

"If you just look at traditional numbers, it's not always pretty with the batting average. But he's hitting down near the bottom of the batting order and leads our team in home runs. That type of potent bats at the bottom, you can't fall asleep at the bottom of the order or he'll change the score."
-- Hinch, on Valbuena's 16 home runs this season

Video: [email protected]: Hinch on the Astros' win and bullpen success

"It's a bad road trip. There's no doubt. But we've got a lot of home games coming up. We're not there yet [at the brink of the season falling apart], but we've got to start winning series."
-- Rockies second baseman LeMahieu, on a 1-5 road trip to Miami and Houston that threatens to undo much of the momentum of late May and early June

Six of Valbuena's eight total hits in June have been home runs. His two-homer day Tuesday gave him 16 for the season.

Catcher Michael McKenry tripled in the Rockies' three-run second inning, and is making it a habit. After not recording a triple in his first 862 career plate appearances, Tuesday's was his third in the last 18.

Video: [email protected]: McKenry triples in Arenado to tie game

There was a crew-chief review in the first inning when Colorado designated hitter Corey Dickerson smacked Velasquez's second pitch of the at-bat to deep left field. It was ruled a double on the field, and the call was ruled to stand after a review of one minute and 51 seconds.

Video: [email protected]: Dickerson's double stands after ump review

A second crew-chief review was initiated in the seventh after Gonzalez's mammoth shot near the right-field foul pole was originally called a home run. The call was overturned and it was ruled a foul ball after a review of two minutes and 18 seconds. Gonzalez struck out when he returned to the plate, ending the inning.

Video: [email protected]: CarGo's home run overturned in 7th

Rockies: Righty Kyle Kendrick (2-8, 5.87 ERA) pitched well in his last two outings, both against the Marlins, yielding just four runs in 13 2/3 innings, but the Rockies struggled offensively and lost both. Kendrick will try to maintain his momentum and hope for better luck against the Astros on Wednesday at 6:40 p.m. MT.

Astros: Lefty Brett Oberholtzer will head to the mound as the series shifts to Colorado. Oberholtzer, who is finally healthy after blister issues plagued him early in the season, is coming off his finest start of the season, in which he tossed eight scoreless innings and allowed just three hits in a 10-0 rout of Seattle on Friday.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page. Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for