The home run machine that is the Houston Astros' offense is still sputtering but the past two nights show they are beginning to reawaken. The rather quiet All-Star trio of George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa all scored in the first inning and mending Evan Gattis drove in a run and scored twice to lead the Astros to a 5-2 victory over Seattle on Friday night to kick off their final homestand of the regular season.
Altuve Nine short of 200 hits
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
Pending the outcome of the Rangers-Angels game on the West Coast, the Astros have a magic number of two and could conceivably wrap up the AL West division for the first time in their history Saturday before a Fox TV audience. With Cleveland's first loss since hurricane season, Houston also moved back within 1-1/2 games of the top spot in the American League.
The top guns came to life in the first inning against James Paxton when Springer drew a walk, moved to second on a wild pitch then scored on a sharp single by Altuve. Correa then launched a drive over the head of center fielder Guillermo Heredia for a double that plated Altuve. Gattis dumped a two-out single to get the third run home for an early 3-0 edge they carried the rest of the night.
Gattis doubled in the third and came home on a single to right by Josh Reddick whose 80th RBI ties him with Marwin Gonzalez for the team lead in that department. Gattis walked and scored in the sixth on a two-out single from Cameron Maybin.
Charlie Morton danced through some raindrops on his way to his 12th win, tying him with Dallas Keuchel for the team lead in that department. He gave up one run and five hits in six innings while fanning seven. He put two men on in the fifth and gave up Seattle's first run when he threw poorly to second after a comebacker. He did coax a double play from Mitch Haniger to escape further damage.
Will Harris came on in the seventh and gave up the game's last run when the Mariners combined three singles, part of their nine hits on the night. Francisco Liriano worked an inning before Ken Giles posted his 31st save in the ninth.
After something of a late slump, Altuve needs to kick it up a notch to reach the widely-assumed 200 hits this season. He has 191 with 15 games left. The two-time batting champion still leads the majors with a .347 average but he has been subject to September swoons much of his career.
Outfielder Jake Marisnick will be lost to the team for the rest of the season after his right thumb was diagnosed as broken after an ill-fated slide in Anaheim the other night. He will be out for 6-8 weeks.
Keuchel (12-4) will get the early call in Saturday's 12:05 Central contest that was moved up to accommodate national television. Erasmus Ramirez (5-5) is the scheduled starter for the Mariners.
- Bob Hulsey