HOUSTON -- There were two runners on base when Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel came to the plate in the seventh winning Wednesday. Gurriel had already tied a franchise record by driving in eight runs and there wasn’t a person at Minute Maid Park that didn’t think he was about to break it.
Gurriel popped out to second base in his final at-bat in the Astros’ 14-3 wipe out of the Rockies, finishing off a game where the American League Player of the Month for July went 2-for-4 with a three-run homer and three-run double en route to eight RBIs.
“I was trying to drive them in and it didn’t happen, but I was happy with eight,” he said.
Gurriel’s eight RBIs are a Minute Maid Park record and tied catcher J.R. Towles (Sept. 20, 2007, at St. Louis) for the most in club history. Gurriel joins Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell as the only players in franchise history with two games of at least seven RBIs. Gurriel also tied a MLB record for RBIs by a Cuban-born player (Yasmani Grandal, LAD, 5/7/2015; Jose Canseco, TEX, 6/13/1994).
“You get that feeling every time he comes up that something positive is going to happen, and he’s locked in on pitch recognition and staying in the at-bat and having a really good plan,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “He’s a big part of the culture in here. Everybody in that room is really excited and happy for him and he’s doing his thing quite often.”
Astros starter Gerrit Cole (14-5) has been just as hot. He struck out 10 batters in six innings and allowed three hits, two of which came on homers by Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado, to improve to 10-0 with a 1.98 ERA in his last 14 starts. He leads the Majors with 226 strikeouts in 156 2/3 innings.
“The wins are always representative of kind of a team approach,” Cole said. “I’ve given my team a really good chance to win every time we’ve gone out, and the offense has given me a good opportunity to collect W’s every time I’ve gone out.”
In a 5-0 homestand against the Mariners and the Rockies, the Astros outscored the opposition, 47-12, to run their record to 75-40 -- the best after 115 games in franchise history. They have opened up a 10-game lead in the AL West.
The Astros had 12 hits Wednesday, but drew nine walks (without walking a batter). Jose Altuve homered on the first pitch of the bottom of the first, setting the stage for a four-run inning. Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman each went 2-for-4, and rookie Yordan Alvarez was 3-for-4.
“I can’t say enough about our guys as a whole,” Hinch said. “I thought today, we passed the baton to the next guy. … Just an incredible offensive performance, and broke the game open when we needed to and continued to have good at-bats after that. I can’t rave enough about our offense right now.”
Gurriel, who hit two homers in Tuesday’s 11-6 win over the Rockies, hit a three-run homer in his first at-bat Wednesday, added a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the third inning and hit a bases-loaded double in the fourth. He came to the plate with the bases loaded again in the sixth and reached on a fielder’s choice, scoring Brantley from third with his eighth RBI.
“It’s something that’s tough to do, but in our lineup, any of our guys could do it,” Gurriel said. “To be able to match the record is something that’s huge for me.”
Gurriel became the ninth player in MLB history to collect eight RBIs in a game with two or fewer hits, and the first to do so since Eric Chavez on Aug. 30, 2001. Gurriel is slashing .379/.413/.843 with 18 homers and 48 RBIs in 35 games since June 23.
“He’s had some really good big swings in his time here,” Hinch said. “Everybody wants to talk about his offense and I get it, [but] he’s an underrated first baseman and he’s very good over there. He’s been able to move around the field when we’ve had some injuries. He’s a connector in the clubhouse and everybody loves him. The influence he has is really, really incredible to watch and to feel and to see.”