It's gotta be the shoes! Tucker homers twice after 3 K's, changing cleats

May 20th, 2024

HOUSTON -- No offense to Orbit, the Astros’ furry green mascot alien, but outfielder could only celebrate his birthday for so long on Sunday.

Tucker took the field for the series finale against the Brewers wearing green cleats that had a picture of Orbit on the outside, a tribute to the birthday celebration that was happening at Minute Maid Park. Among the baseball mascots that joined Orbit on Sunday were Rosie Red, the Mariner Moose, T.C. Bear of the Twins and the Padres’ Swinging Friar.

But after Tucker went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts against Brewers starter Colin Rea, the slugger ditched the Orbit cleats in favor of a pair of orange cleats. The result? He slugged his 14th and 15th home runs of the season, tying him with Baltimore’s Gunnar Henderson for the Major League lead, to propel the Astros to a 9-4 win over the Brewers.

“I just didn’t really have a great first three at-bats with them and I just decided to come in and swap them back out for my other cleats,” Tucker said. “It ended up pretty well.”

Indeed. Tucker recorded the sixth multihomer game of his career -- three of which have come this season. His 15 homers are tied for the fifth most in Astros history through 47 team games and are the most since George Springer had 17 homers in Houston’s first 47 games in 2019.

It’s gotta be the shoes, right?

“Maybe, I don’t know,” Tucker said. “Rea threw some good pitches, a lot of backdoor cutters, the ones on the corners and stuff. I don’t know if the cleats were making him throw good pitches, but I just decided to switch some stuff and it worked out.”

The Astros took two of three games from Milwaukee to win for the ninth time in their past 11 games, improving to 6-1 on their season-long 10-game homestand. This is the Astros’ first winning homestand since taking two of three games last August from the Angels, who will be in Houston for three games beginning Monday.

“It’s huge if you’re able to string together series wins, especially in the division,” Tucker said. “We’ve got the Angels coming up, so hopefully we can keep it rolling.”

Rea had Tucker and his Orbit cleats baffled early in the game. He struck him out on five pitches in the first inning, seven pitches in the second and six pitches in the fourth. At that point, Tucker was 2-for-8 in the series. Milwaukee had contained him.

"That thought ran through my mind after his third strikeout,” Brewers manager Pat Murphy said. “And it haunted me after that. Don't think like that."

Jose Altuve’s homer -- his 37th career leadoff home run -- off Rea got the Astros going, and they proceeded to score four times in the first inning to take a 4-1 lead. The rally was capped by a bases-loaded two-run double by Jake Meyers, who went 7-for-12 in the series.

Tucker’s solo homer in the sixth inning put the Astros ahead, 6-1, but reliever Bryan Abreu came in with the bases loaded and allowed all three runners to score as the Brewers got within two, 6-4. All three runs were charged to rookie starter Spencer Arrighetti, who allowed four runs and struck out six batters while throwing a career-high 99 pitches in 6 1/3 innings.

Tucker answered in the bottom of the seventh by hitting a three-run homer into the first rows of the Crawford Boxes in left field off reliever Mitch White, putting Houston back up by five runs, 9-4. Tucker drove in four runs, giving him 33 RBIs for the season.

“He’s playing at a different level right now,” Astros manager Joe Espada said. “He’s a really, really good player.”

Tucker is already halfway to his career high of 30 home runs, which he set in 2021 and matched in ‘22. Last year, he hit 29 home runs, leaving him one homer shy of a 30-30 season (he had 30 steals). Barring an injury, he should blow past his career-best homer number this year.

“I just try and get good pitches over the plate and try to barrel them up, and they just happen to fall for homers,” he said. “It’s not like I’m trying to lift the ball and start hitting them. It kind of comes with the pitch selection and trying to barrel balls to the outfield.”

Swapping cleats didn’t hurt, either.