King Tuck's 100th RBI keeps Astros rolling

Tucker's milestone kickstarts offense while Javier, 5 relievers pitch shutout

September 21st, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG – When a pair of reporters approached  at his locker following Tuesday’s 5-0 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field, slugger Yordan Alvarez acknowledged the nickname, “King Tuck,” from a few lockers away, a nod from one intimidating slugger to another.

Even in a lineup that includes Alvarez, who ranked second in the American League in OPS, slugging, on-base percentage and homers entering Tuesday, it was Tucker who became the first Astros player to reach 100 RBIs this season with a first-inning double. Alvarez had 104 last season.

“It was cool,” Tucker said. “The guys in front of me make it a little easier for me when I’m at the plate to get them in. The RBIs are more on them than me.”

• Games remaining: 13
• Standings update: Clinched AL West
• Magic number for AL’s best record: 6 (over Yankees)

Tucker is the 18th different player in club history to reach 100 RBIs in a season, and the first full-time outfielder since Carlos Lee did it three years in a row (2007-09). He’s hitting .316 with 12 doubles and 35 RBIs in 40 games since Aug. 3.

“This is something a lot of people never get to, including me,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker, whose career high was 99 RBIs in 1973. “I was pulling for him. He knocked fire from that ball, too, and now just go ahead and get some more.”

With Jose Altuve at third and Jeremy Peña at first and one out in the first inning, Tucker ripped a 3-0 fastball over the head of left fielder David Peralta and off the wall, scoring Altuve easily for the milestone RBI. The opposite-field hit had an exit velocity of 104.2 mph.

Tucker’s job as a middle-of-the-order bat is to drive in runs, even though some view the stat as less important than it was in previous decades. Tucker doesn’t necessarily buy into that, but he admits he needs guys on base to knock ‘em in.

“If no one's getting on base, you’ve got to drive yourself in with homers, and that’s pretty hard to do,” Tucker said. “They do a really good job getting on base and drawing walks and hitting. I’ve got some really good players in front of me in the lineup. They put me in good spots, and I try to do my best to get them in.”

Pitchers’ scoreless streak reaches 21 innings
The Astros have posted back-to-back shutouts -- despite issuing 11 walks -- on the road against a Rays team they could face in the AL Division Series this year. On Tuesday, allowed one hit and four walks and struck out six in five innings before five relievers finished off Houston’s 17th shutout of the season.

"You've got to give some credit to their pitching staff,” Rays designated hitter Christian Bethancourt said. “I think their pitching staff is No. 1 in all pitching categories, and you've got to tip your hat. I mean, they're good, and we've got to make some adjustments. Hopefully, tomorrow is better.”

Astros pitching, which entered Tuesday leading the AL in ERA, strikeouts, opponents’ average, opponents’ OPS and opponents’ WHIP, hasn’t allowed a run in 21 consecutive innings. The 17 shutouts are the most in a season for Houston since it had 19 in 1986.

“Our pitchers have been dominating all year,” said Peña, who hit a three-run homer in the third. “And it’s impressive to watch. I’m the biggest fan [watching] from shortstop. I get to see everything, how the pitches move, and it’s fun to play behind them.”

Diaz collects first Major League in front of family
With his father and brother from the Dominican Republic in the stands to watch him play, rookie collected his first Major League hit with an eighth-inning double. Diaz had played in only two games since being called up Sept. 1.

“I felt very happy,” he said. “That was something I was wanting since I debuted, and thankfully, it happened.”

Diaz had a walk and an RBI in his Major League debut Sept. 2 and caught one inning Sept. 4, but he hadn’t stepped on the field again until he pinch-hit for Yuli Gurriel on Tuesday.

“I got here early every day to be able to get my work done before most of the guys that are playing every day got here, and thanks to that I was able to have all the resources and all the hitting coaches available to help me,” Diaz said.