Astros aim to keep offense rolling against Indians

MLB

The Houston Astros ended a four-game drought without a home run by going deep three times Thursday in the series opener against the Cleveland Indians.

The Astros look to flex their muscles once again Friday when they play the second contest of a four-game series in Cleveland.

Jose Altuve hit his second grand slam of the season and Michael Brantley and Yordan Alvarez each added a solo shot as Houston snapped a four-game skid with a 7-2 win on Thursday.

Altuve dismissed the notion that the Astros were feeling additional pressure to ignite their offense.

“That’s baseball sometimes,” the former American League MVP said. “And, as a team, you have to know that eventually you’re going to get some swings and score some runs. That’s what we did tonight.”

Houston manager Dusty Baker appeared to sing a different tune.

“A tremendous lift for us,” Baker said of Altuve’s fifth-inning blast. “We (haven’t) been scoring but one or two runs a game in that whole series with Baltimore, so that was huge. It gave us some breathing room.

“Everybody was running on fumes, and that gave us a tremendous amount of energy.”

Brantley, who spent parts of 10 seasons with the Indians, followed up a sizzling June in which he batted .410 (34-for-83) by going 3-for-5 in the series opener.

Alvarez carries an 18-game on-base streak into Friday’s contest against Cleveland, which will look to avoid its third four-game losing streak of the season. The Indians dropped four straight April 20-24 and did so again May 14-17.

Houston right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (5-1, 2.94 ERA) will attempt to win his third straight start when he takes the mound on Friday.

McCullers yielded two runs for the third consecutive outing on Saturday and scattered five hits in 5 1/3 innings of a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers.

McCullers, 27, owns a 1-2 record with a 6.61 ERA in three career appearances (all starts) vs. Cleveland. He has kept Jose Ramirez (1-for-8) under wraps, but Eddie Rosario (3-for-7, four RBIs) has fared well against the hurler.

Rosario’s availability for Friday’s game is in question after the left fielder exited the series opener due to right abdominal tightness.

“Eddie was cramping up in his abdominal area, and just out of an abundance of caution, we sent him over to get an MRI,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said of Rosario, who recently had a 14-game hitting streak. “The last thing we want to do is let someone take a big swing and it’s more than a cramp.”

Cleveland’s Harold Ramirez continued his hot streak with an RBI double in the series opener. He has hits in eight of his last 10 games.

Indians rookie left-hander Sam Hentges (1-2, 7.32 ERA) will bid to rebound from a porous start when he starts Friday.

Hentges, 24, allowed two homers, four walks and six runs total for the second time this season in an 8-2 setback to the Minnesota Twins on Sunday. He will be facing the Astros for the first time in his career.

–Field Level Media

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