MINNEAPOLIS -- Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman did enough offensively to back a strong start by right-hander Mike Fiers, as the Astros ran their winning streak to a season-high six games by pushing past the Twins, 7-2, on Tuesday night at Target Field.Fiers recovered after a shaky first inning, tossing
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman did enough offensively to back a strong start by right-hander Mike Fiers, as the Astros ran their winning streak to a season-high six games by pushing past the Twins, 7-2, on Tuesday night at Target Field.
Fiers recovered after a shaky first inning, tossing six innings of two-run ball while allowing five hits. Fiers, who has allowed 18 home runs this season, did not give up a long ball to the Twins. It marked the first time all season Fiers did not give up a homer in a start. The two runs charged to him came on a bases-loaded walk to Eddie Rosario and a RBI single by Byron Buxton.
"It was a great performance by Fiers," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He came into the game having been told he's out of the rotation. He gets back in the rotation and comes out and puts up a performance like that. He controlled the first inning, which was key, and really dialed it in from then on to the end of his outing. Really proud of him."
Altuve finished the evening 4-for-5, including a decisive two-run single in the fifth inning. Bregman halved the early deficit with a sacrifice fly in the third and then crushed a solo shot in the seventh. According to Statcast™, Bregman's homer traveled an estimated 401 feet with an exit velocity of 103.7 mph.
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"It's a good lineup," said Bregman, who was hitting ninth. "You've got competitive at-bats all the way through. There's no let up for the other team's pitcher. It's fun to be part of an offense like that. Wherever he [Hinch] tells me to hit, I'm going to hit and be happy."
Minnesota right-hander Jose Berrios was handed his first loss of the year after three strong outings to begin his second campaign. Berrios lasted just five innings, his shortest outing this season, while giving up four runs off five hits and issuing four walks. He also ended his Major League-leading active streak of 14 1/3 consecutive innings without allowing a two-strike hit, which came courtesy of a fifth-inning single by Bregman.
• Berrios struggles with command in loss
"Jose didn't have his great command," Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said. "However, I told him I was proud of him. A lot of times he hasn't had his command in the past, it's kind of been explosive. I thought he contained [them] fairly well tonight."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Altuve's road rage: Following consecutive one-out singles, Altuve seized control of the game in the fifth. The second baseman smacked a first-pitch curveball off Berrios, driving in a pair of runs to break the 2-2 deadlock. Altuve has now hit safely in all 13 career games at Target Field, including five three-hit showings in his last six games at the ballpark. Altuve is now batting .439 (36-for-82) away from Houston this year. More >>
Fiers faces trouble: The Twins appeared poised for a big opening frame, as Fiers struggled to locate the strike zone at first. Fiers retired just two of the first seven batters he faced, including a pair of free passes, which loaded the bases. Fiers froze former teammate Jason Castro -- who caught his no-hitter in 2015 -- on a 2-1 heater to keep the deficit at just two runs. The fastball to end the first inning was his 30th pitch of the inning.
"Go right at them, that's what I was doing with all those guys," Fiers said. "Just trying to keep them off-balance, but be aggressive in the zone and expand later on with two strikes. I was able to do that and keep these guys to two runs."
"You've got to earn your spot here, especially on a first-place team. I wasn't doing my job and so when [Hinch] told me I was going to the bullpen, I've got to do whatever the team needs and not try to think of it as a demotion. Just take it and work in my pitches and hopefully get another chance to get in there." -- Fiers, on his outing, which came a few days after he was told he was out of the rotation, and then was put back in when Charlie Morton went on disabled list
WHEELER MAKES DEBUT
Twins left-hander Jason Wheeler made his Major League debut during Tuesday's loss. He threw a scoreless eighth inning, but gave up a pair of runs (one earned) to the Astros' potent offense in the ninth. In the end, Wheeler gave up three hits and walked a pair of batters in his first taste of the big league level.
"It's good to get the first one over, my heart was racing more than normal," Wheeler said. "I'm going to remember it as a success except for not catching that ball [at first base]. That's going to bug me. I could have been out of the inning, two clean innings to start."
Astros: The organization's No. 3 prospect, David Paulino, was called up to start in place of Joe Musgrove, who went on the disabled list Tuesday, in Wednesday's 12:10 p.m. CT finale at Target Field. Paulino, who appeared in three games for the Astros in September, allowed 11 hits and nine walks and struck out 13 in 14 innings in three starts at Triple-A Fresno.
Twins: Left-hander Hector Santiago (4-3, 4.07 ERA) is slated to start for Minnesota in the finale at 12:10 p.m. CT. Santiago pitched twice over the weekend series against the Rays, including a relief appearance during Sunday's 15-inning marathon.
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Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.