Correa, Conger hit 2 HRs; Astros rout D-backs
HOUSTON -- Carlos Correa and Hank Conger each notched their first career multihomer games, while Astros ace Dallas Keuchel overcame control issues to earn his 13th win and improve to 10-0 at Minute Maid Park this season, snapping the D-backs' six-game winning streak with a 9-2 victory on Saturday night.
After depositing the first pitch of the third inning into the right-field bleachers, Conger padded a 3-2 Astros lead with his first career grand slam, capping a five-run fourth that chased D-backs starter Jeremy Hellickson. Correa, who snuck one just inside the left-field foul pole in the first, followed with a two-run shot in the sixth, giving him the American League lead in round-trippers among shortstops.
Hellickson was staked to an early 2-1 lead headed into the third thanks to Keuchel's early ineffectiveness, but issued Conger's first homer on his first pitch of the home half. He couldn't escape the fourth, where he yielded three extra-base hits, including the slam, hit a batter and walked another. His 3 1/3-inning stint was his shortest of the season.
"I'll never forget my first grand slam. It's never happened in a couple years and when it happened, I was pretty stoked about it," Conger said. "Just throughout the whole game, I think Dallas made a great adjustment, his two-seamer was moving. For [Keuchel] to make an adjustment and get out of that inning with only two runs was big for us momentum-wise. Our offense kind of went from there."
"I just couldn't get the ball down," Hellickson said. "I left a lot of pitches out over the plate and couldn't make a good pitch there that [fourth] inning when I needed to."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Crushing catchers: With Conger's career night, the two Houston catchers have hit four home runs in the past three games, including Jason Castro's walk-off homer to sweep the Angels on Thursday. Conger, who has started consecutive games only three times this season, added an eighth-inning single to cap his third career three-hit game and raise his average to .311 in his 28 games since June.
"I love how they're both feeding off of everyone," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. "We go out every day as catchers we want to catch a winner. If you get a hit or two that's a pretty good feeling as well. These guys are doing damage the last couple games and it's been exciting for both of them. I've said all along, we've got two everyday catchers that I can throw out there every day." More >
Leaving them loaded: The D-backs had a chance to do some real damage against Keuchel in the second as the lefty struggled with his command. While the D-backs did manage to push across a pair of runs, they left the bases loaded and missed a chance to put the Astros in a big early hole.
"Definitely that second inning was our best opportunity," Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. "We got a couple of runs, which was good. His command was a little off that second inning. His command is usually really good and then those next four innings he didn't make many mistakes." More >
Fountain of Youth: Correa's two long balls put him alone atop AL shortstops in the category with 12, given 12 of Troy Tulowitzki's 13 dingers were hit in the National League. Since his Major League debut, Correa leads the club in home runs, hits, doubles and RBIs. He's the only shortstop in the last century to hit 10 or more homers in his first 45 Major League games.
"The atmosphere in the clubhouse and in the dugout is great," Correa said. "We have a great team. We know that we have a lot of talent in this clubhouse and everybody supports each other. We have great teammates in here and it's just amazing to be here at the big league level, sharing this moment with these guys." More >
Going quietly: After an RBI single by Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the second, the D-backs' bats went silent. Arizona hitters were unable to muster another hit the entire game, and after the second, they managed just one baserunner when Nick Ahmed reached on an error in the fifth.
"We got beat tonight," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "We haven't been in a game like this for a while, on this end of it."
"I joked on the bench with some of our guys that we have four home runs in the last three games out of the catcher position, so sometimes you've got to go to the heart and soul of your team to get some production." -- Hinch, a former catcher, showing his self-described "catcher bias"
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
In improving his home record to 10-0, Keuchel -- who leads the AL with 13 victories -- went six innings or more for the 33rd consecutive start, breaking the Astros franchise record set by Brett Meyers in 2010. The last Major League pitcher to have such a streak last for 33 games was the Tigers' Justin Verlander, who went six or more innings in 63 straight outings from Aug. 22, 2010, to July 26, 2012. More >
Hinch used a managerial challenge in the eighth after Carlos Gomez's third hit of the evening sent Conger to the plate. Initially ruled an out by home-plate umpire CB Bucknor, the call stood after a three-minute, 20-second review.
D-backs: The D-backs will send lefty Robbie Ray to the mound in the rubber game Sunday at 11:10 a.m. MT at Minute Maid Park. Ray is 3-2 with a 1.56 ERA and has held opponents to a .188 batting average in six road starts this year.
Astros: Righty Collin McHugh gets the ball for the Astros on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. CT in the rubber game of the series. He's won six of his past eight starts while allowing three earned runs or fewer in seven of the eight.
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