Tucker leaves no pitch safe, crushes three homers in career night

Pressly earns 100th career save as Astros stay undefeated vs A's

July 22nd, 2023

OAKLAND -- is locked in at the plate.

For the first time in his six-year career, the All-Star outfielder belted three home runs in a 6-4 victory on Friday night against the A’s. Tucker blasted a no-doubt solo shot to the right-field bleachers at the Coliseum in the first, hit an impressive two-run blast in the fifth and then snuck out another solo shot in the seventh.

So, when’s the last time he hit three dingers in a game?

“I don’t know, maybe high school,” Tucker said. “Wish it could happen more.”

No pitch was safe Friday night. The first homer came on a fastball, the second on a slider and the third a changeup.

It’s also worth noting that Tucker’s first two home runs came against A’s southpaw JP Sears. Remarkably, the left-handed-hitting Tucker is faring better against lefties (.359 batting average) than he is against righties (.272) this season.

Asked to explain his success against southpaws, Tucker said it might have something to do with facing his left-handed older brother as a kid in the backyard. Preston Tucker, who is seven years Kyle’s senior, is currently on the 10-day injured list (plantar fasciitis) in the Padres' organization.

“In terms of facing a lefty or a righty, I don’t really mind it,” Tucker said. “I think that’s a big part of just playing Wiffle ball in the backyard with my brother being a lefty.”

It marked the first time an Astros slugger racked up three home runs in a game since Yordan Alvarez accomplished the feat against the A’s on Sept. 16, 2022.  

Heck, you could even say that Tucker was just 15 feet away from a four-homer night. In the third inning, he recorded a loud out to dead center that traveled 386 feet and left his bat at 101 mph. Tucker said he’s simply trying to barrel up pitches.

The 26-year-old slugger has been scorching the ball in July, as he now totes a .400/.479/.800 slash line with six home runs and 19 RBIs this month. 

“You can’t get much more locked in than that,” manager Dusty Baker said of Tucker. “You don’t worry about it. When you get locked in, you just swing.”

All six runs for the Astros came via the long ball Friday night. also notched a two-run shot off Sears in the third inning, as the ball bounced off the top of the tall wall in left-center field before disappearing behind the fence.

While the stars led the offense, starter looked sharp before stumbling in the fifth, when he gave up three runs. The southpaw had to exit his previous start with a calf cramp but said the injury wasn’t an issue Friday night. 

“I didn’t feel anything tonight,” Valdez said through interpreter Jenloy Herrera. “That was something I was thinking about just trying to make sure I didn’t pull it again. But the biggest thing was that my pitches weren’t doing what I wanted them to do today.”

Valdez finished five innings, giving up four earned runs on six hits and two walks while striking out four. 

Phil Maton, Rafael Montero and Hector Neris each tossed scoreless innings – Neris got a huge inning-ending double play after walking his first two batters – before closer came in for the ninth. It marked the first time Pressly pitched in three straight days since Sept. 17-19, 2021, but the right-hander told Baker that he felt good to go before the game.

Pressly nailed down the save, the 100th of his career and 99th in an Astros uniform. The 34-year-old rarely finished games throughout his first seven seasons with the Twins and Astros, but he has developed into a solid closer since 2020.

“Whenever you get something like that, it’s pretty special for anybody to get 100 of anything,” Pressly said. “I never thought I’d get here, to be honest with you.”

The big night from Tucker and Co. came on the same evening when the Rangers lost 11-5 in Arlington, pulling the Astros within three games back of the American League West lead. Considering stars like Alvarez (right oblique strain) and Jose Altuve (left oblique strain) could return in the coming days or weeks, along with starter José Urquidy (right shoulder inflammation), the Astros are trending up with the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline approaching.

“Getting Altuve back, getting Yordan back fresh and Urquidy’s making progress -- it’s like making three trades right there,” Baker said.