Welcome back, Charlie Morton.
Springer: 14 HRs since June 1st
(c) Associated Press International
In the absence of solid starting pitching, the Astros have learned to win by brute force, dismantling opposing pitchers like pins in front of a bowling ball. They gave Morton nine early runs Friday night in Toronto and coasted to a 12-2 laugher that featured four home runs. George Springer had a night to remember, going 4-for-4 with four runs scored, two homers and five RBIs.
Morton, who had missed a month on the Disabled List, picked up his sixth win by tossing six innings of four-hit ball, allowing one run before turning the ball over to James Hoyt, Tony Sipp and Francis Martes.
Carlos Correa got the scoring started in the first when he crushed an Aaron Sanchez pitch over the center field fence for a two-run homer, his 18th of the season. Springer followed in the second with a three-run bomb into the right-center stands for a 5-0 lead. Houston would add three more on an RBI grounder, a high-chop single and an Evan Gattis double to the fence before the inning was over for an 8-0 cushion.
Gattis would drill a line drive homer to left in the seventh for an 11-1 edge and Springer would add one more homer to right center to cap his night. George now has 27 home runs for the year, two short of last year's full-season total and it is still early July.
Jose Altuve added three more hits to raise his batting average to .342 and take the major league lead in that department.
The series continues Saturday north of the border when Mike Fiers (5-3) faces off against Marcus Stroman (8-5) in a 12:07 Central matchup.
In other news, reliever Chris Devenski was named to the American League All-Star team on Friday as an injury replacement, giving the Astros a franchise-record six players on the team. He joins Springer, Correa, Altuve, and pitchers Lance McCullers and Dallas Keuchel on the squad although Keuchel is still on the Disabled List and will not participate.
Devenski is 6-3 with three saves and a 2.09 ERA in 51-2/3rd innings as a versatile member of the Houston bullpen. He's 10-7 with a 2.14 ERA in his big league career. And to think the Astros exposed this guy to the Rule V draft a couple of seasons ago where anyone could have picked him up cheap.
The Astros also signed their first-round pick from this June's draft, pitcher J.B. Bukauskas, a righthander from the University of North Carolina who signed at $3.6 million which is slightly over the slotted bonus allocation. Houston has now signed all 12 selections made in the first ten rounds.
Finally, to make room on the active roster for Morton, the Astros optioned reliever Dayan Diaz to AAA Fresno. It's the third time he's been sent down this season but I imagine he feels better about himself after making three July appearances for a 2.25 ERA in four innings which included his first big league win.
- Bob Hulsey