HOUSTON -- One by one, Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker fouled off a series of pitches by Rangers starter Kolby Allard in the fifth inning Friday night, pushing through the physical demands of repeated violent swings before getting a pitch he knew he could handle.
Tucker capped a five-run third inning by slugging a three-run homer -- which came at the end of an nine-pitch at-bat -- as the Astros pounced on Allard for seven runs and won for the third time in five games, 7-3, over their Lone Star State rivals.
“He made some good pitches,” Tucker said. “I got pretty tired after fouling off a bunch of pitches. You’ve just got to be prepared and get down early, be ready for his fastball, and if he throws his cutter and curveball, then you can adjust to it. Mentally, just stay prepared and keep the at-bat going.”
The surging Tucker extended his career high with his 18th homer, giving him homers in three consecutive games. Tucker has feasted at Minute Maid Park this year, leading the club in batting average (.325), slugging percentage (.645) and OPS (1.022) at home.
“That was a big one,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “I don’t think we’ve had a big inning in a long time. Felt good to score some runs.”
Allard started the Tucker at-bat with two fastballs out of the zone and then mixed his cutter and fastball as Tucker fouled off six consecutive pitches. Allard was trying to go up and in on Tucker on a 2-2 pitch but missed down in the zone. Tucker didn’t miss it, hitting a fastball 385 feet into the Houston bullpen in right-center field to break the game open.
“He was pounding the strike zone pretty well,” Tucker said. “He put a bunch of good pitches together, challenged me a bunch of times with the cutter. I ended up getting a pretty good pitch -- fastball down in the zone and put a good swing on it, and it ended up working out for me. He made some good pitches. It was a long at-bat, and it worked out for me. I was happy with that.”
Tucker is hitting .332 with 18 doubles, 13 homers and 41 RBIs in his last 53 games, which is a span that was interrupted by a stint on the COVID-19 IL. Tucker missed seven games from June 16-23 (the Astros went 7-0) and went 4-for-18 in first four games back following his illness. Since that stretch, he’s slashing .323/.348/.534 in 17 games.
“That was kind of like a little rough stretch for me,” he said. “I missed a week or 10 days, roughly. If you’re not on the field playing or at the field at all, it’s a little tough, just because I didn’t see any pitches and what not, just to come back. I feel good right now.”
Seeing Tucker come around at the plate gives Baker hope that struggling shortstop Carlos Correa can turn things around as well. Correa missed three games before the All-Star break with an illness that required him to go to the hospital for intravenous fluids. Correa is 1-for-25 since coming back and is in a 1-for-38 slump overall.
“You know Tucker is going to hit sooner or later,” Baker said. “He was hitting into back luck for a long time in the first half, and then he was swinging good much like Carlos, and then he gets sick. It took him a while to get his strength back, just like it’s taken Carlos a while to get his strength back.”