HOUSTON -- The Astros are on pace to smash their single-season home run total of 249, which was set in 2000 during the team’s first year at Minute Maid Park. That season, Houston hitters feasted on the Crawford Boxes in the hitter-friendly park, with Richard Hidalgo (44) and Jeff Bagwell (47) both putting up career-high single-season homer totals.
In a season in which baseballs are flying out of ballparks all over the country and records are being destroyed, the Astros could have as many as five players reach their single-season career highs for homers. Two of those -- George Springer and José Altuve -- led off the first inning of Tuesday’s 6-3 win over the Tigers with back-to-back homers. Martín Maldonado added a homer in the fifth inning.
“It’s part of our identity, but not our entire identity on offense,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said of the long ball.
The Astros have won eight games in a row at home and improved to 81-46 overall.
So far in 2019, the Astros have hit 215 home runs in 127 games, an average of 1.69 per game. In 2000, they averaged 1.54 homers per game. Houston is on pace to wallop 274 home runs. The Astros are fourth in the Majors in clouts behind the Twins, Yankees and Dodgers.
“I don’t know if it’s a driving force, but it’s a way we win,” Hinch said. “When we start the game with two homers, that’s a great start. And George and Jose both jump-started us a little bit. We don’t have to rely on the homer. I think that’s one of the beauties of this offense, but when we do homer, everybody loves it."
The Astros are 72-25 when they hit a homer this year and 27-5 when they slug at least three like they did on Tuesday.
“Those guys can work you,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “They work the counts, they know how to make you throw a lot of pitches. And that's what happens with those good hitters.”
Springer set an Astros record when he sent the third pitch of the game from Tigers right-hander Spencer Turnbull over the wall in right field for his 10th leadoff home run of the season. Altuve also hit one over the wall in right field three pitches later.
“When he goes to bat and he takes such an aggressive at-bat, it kind of sets the tone, not only for me but for everybody in the lineup,” Altuve said. “I see his ball going a long way to right field, and even if you want it or not, it kind of gives you the right approach to hit against the pitcher. I didn’t try to do quite the same, but I was like, ‘OK, let me stay back a little bit,’ and I hit the ball out, too.”
Springer broke his own franchise record for leadoff homers, which was set in 2017. It was also the 34th of his career, which is the second most in club history behind Hall of Fame second baseman Craig Biggio (53). Altuve’s homer came on an 0-2 pitch from Turnbull and put the Astros ahead, 2-1. Maldonado’s homer was his eighth of the season and increased Houston's lead to 6-3.
It’s the fourth time in club history it led off a game with consecutive homers.
“We’ve gotten stronger,” Altuve quipped when asked why the club was hitting so many home runs. “I see a lot of homers by Springer when I’m on deck and I love it. I think the fans love it, too. We need to keep hitting homers.”
Yuli Gurriel has already set a career high with 25 homers, and Alex Bregman is one shy of his career high of 31 set last year. Springer is seven shy of his career high of 34, Altuve is one shy of his career high of 24 and Michael Brantley is two shy of his career high of 20.