Power barrage lowers Astros' home-field magic number to 1

September 28th, 2022

HOUSTON – With a week remaining in the regular season, the Astros still have a tad bit more work to do before they can begin looking ahead to the postseason. Houston played like a team that still has something to chase Tuesday night, bashing five homers en route to a 10-2 win over the D-backs at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros, having clinched the American League West title a week ago, reduced their magic number to nail down the best record in the AL to one over the Yankees, who clinched the AL East with a win at Toronto. Houston improved to 102-53 and needs one more win – or one Yankees loss – to have home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs.

Games remaining: 7
Standings update: Division clinched; 6 1/2 games ahead of NYY for top seed
Magic number for home-field advantage: 1

On Tuesday, the Astros rode the arm of Luis Garcia, who started in place of Lance McCullers Jr. (illness) and allowed one run in six innings to improve to 14-8, while getting homers from Jose Altuve (two), David Hensley, Alex Bregman and Jeremy Peña. Altuve, Hensley and Bregman all homered in a four-run sixth inning.

“It’s fun when the boys are hitting homers,” Peña said. “When there’s a lot of high-fives going around, it’s pretty cool.”

Here’s a closer look at the long balls barrage:

Peña joins 20-homer club

Peña’s solo home run in the eighth inning was his 20th of the season, making him the sixth Astros rookie to hit 20 homers in a season. The others are Glenn Davis, Lance Berkman, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Yordan Alvarez.

“I feel to be on any list with Yordan Alvarez is pretty cool,” Peña said with a laugh. “It’s awesome. Preseason, I don't really set goals based off of numbers, but hitting 20 your rookie year is a pretty cool milestone.”

Peña’s home run career high in the Minor Leagues was 10, which he set last year in only 30 games at the end of the season for Triple-A Sugar Land. He missed the first three months of the season after undergoing left wrist surgery in July, returned to action in August and joined Triple-A Sugar Land on Aug. 28. The power continues to develop.

“I’ve just cleaned up some things in my swing,” Peña said. “I’ve always been a little strong, but I had to clean up little things and be more consistent.”

Altuve nearing career high

Altuve went 3-for-4 with two homers, a double, a walk and a career-high-tying four runs. He led off the first inning with a homer to left, which was his 12th leadoff dinger of the season. That tied the club record set by Springer in 2019, and he added his second homer of the game in the sixth inning.

With 28 homers, Altuve is three shy of his career high of 31 homers that he hit in 2019 and 2021. He’s having his best season since his 2017 AL Most Valuable Player campaign, hitting .298/.387/.531 with 28 homers, 57 RBIs, 18 steals and 100 runs scored. His .918 OPS is his highest since he had a .957 in 2017.

“That guy has been doing it not just day to day, not just this year, but he’s been doing it for all these years,” Peña said. “He shows up hungry every single day and, you know, from a veteran guy you can’t expect more. You just gravitate towards his work and it makes it easy to show up and get better.”

Hensley hits first career homer

When Alvarez left the game after twisting his ankle in his first-inning at-bat, Hensley pinch-hit for him in the fifth and wound up going 2-for-3 with a sixth-inning homer to right field. That was his first home run as a big leaguer.

“That’s everything I've been working for,” Hensley said. “To see the success happen, it feels really good.”

Hensley, 26, is a versatile hand who’s performed well in limited action this year, slashing .296/.387/.481 in 31 plate appearances. Because of his versatility and his bat, he could be an intriguing option for the Astros to put on their playoff roster, especially if he’s coming off the bench and producing like he did Tuesday.

“I’m just playing my game,” he said. “You work hard to get to a certain point and you start trusting yourself and take it out there each and every day.”