HOUSTON -- Yuli Gurriel kickstarted the Astros' eight-run second inning Sunday by ripping a double to left field. It's how he ended it that had Minute Maid Park rocking.
Gurriel blasted his second career grand slam to cap the outburst and send the Astros to their 15th win in 17 games with an 11-3 victory over the Royals in the series finale. The Astros stretched their American League West lead to 4 1/2 games over Seattle, which lost to the Red Sox.
"My concentration level definitely is focused when there are runners on base, guys that want to score," said Gurriel, who went 3-for-5 and is hitting a Major League-best .464 (26-for-56) this season with runners in scoring position.
Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
The Astros sent 11 batters to the plate in the second against Royals starter Jason Hammel (2-9). Jose Altuve's two-run single with the bases loaded made it 4-0, and Gurriel followed a walk to Carlos Correa with a grand slam into the Crawford Boxes for an 8-0 lead.
"He's been really good in a lot of situations, but specifically when he can hit with runners in scoring position, he just has a knack for putting the barrel on the ball and doing incredibly positive things," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "His balance, his bat-to-ball skills, his bat path ... everything lines up when he can execute his game plan. He hits everything, everywhere, and he usually hits it hard. That was a big knockout blow for them early in the game."
Evan Gattis added his 15th homer of the season in the eighth inning, giving him eight home runs in June and 11 homers in his last 25 games. He's four RBIs shy of tying the club record for the month of June (29).
"He's tough," Royals starter Ned Yost said. "He's every bit as tough as anyone in this league. You give him a couple of runs, and it's even tougher. They have a really good pitching staff over there. It's hard to fall behind that group and battle back because they are so good."
Cole, who joined teammates Justin Verlander and Charlie Morton as nine-game winners, was forced to throw 33 pitches in the first inning to overcome a pair of one-out walks. The Royals fouled off 27 pitches thrown by Cole on the day.
"They did a really good job spoiling pitches throughout the day and battled," Cole said. "An 8-0 lead in the second, and for them to play every pitch and grind it out every pitch was challenging."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Cole was able to withstand a one-out triple by outfielder Abraham Almonte in the second inning. Royals catcher Andrew Butera followed with a chopper that battery mate Max Stassi fielded along the third-base line, then he tagged out Almonte, who was headed for home plate.
"That's ideal, right?" Cole said. "You cannot get a better outcome there. You throw and execute an excellent sider. When it leaves my hand, I'm looking for the strikeout, and I'm sure Max is looking for the strikeout, and then you get a dribbler to not only get the out -- which sometimes when you get weak contact like that, it doesn't go your way -- you get the lead runner, and now you have a catcher running instead of an outfielder [and] not in scoring position. It could not have worked out any better."
Altuve's two-run single in the second inning was his 1,358th career hit, moving him past Terry Puhl and into sole possession of seventh place on the Astros' all-time hits list.
HE SAID IT
"Death by foul ball." -- Cole, on the Royals fouling off 27 pitches, forcing him to need 104 pitches to finish five innings
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Astros lost a challenge in the fifth inning after contending third baseman Alex Bregman was hit in the hand by a pitch. After viewing all relevant angles, the replay official could not definitively determine that the ball struck the batter's hand prior to striking the bat. The call stood, and Bregman's at-bat continued. He flied out.
Verlander (9-2, 1.60 ERA) takes the mound for Monday's 7:10 p.m. CT opener against the Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park. Since losing consecutive starts May 6 and 11, Verlander is 5-0 with a 2.09 ERA, spanning seven starts. Former Astros left-hander J.A. Happ (9-3, 3.56 ERA) will start for Toronto.