Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez returned from the paternity list in grand style Tuesday, hitting two home runs to help Houston rally from a four-run deficit in a 9-6 win over the visiting Oakland Athletics.
And while Alvarez hit his 15th and 16th home runs — and Houston recorded a dozen hits — it was the Astros’ pitching in spots that proved crucial, a familiar refrain for the club this season.
After surrendering six runs on eight hits early, Astros left-hander Framber Valdez battled through five innings to keep the Astros within striking range.
It was his work in the fifth inning that proved especially resourceful. With the Astros trailing 6-3 and with Matt Olson and Matt Chapman on the corners with no outs, Valdez induced a pair of groundouts before striking out Sean Murphy to strand Olson at third and keep the deficit at three.
“The key to that game was Framber with runners on second and third with no outs,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He really buttoned down when he was in trouble. That was a sign of maturity and a good pitcher when you can get out of trouble.”
After Alvarez pulled the Astros even with his three-run shot in the fifth, relievers Bryan Abreu, Ryne Stanek and Ryan Pressly combined to allow one hit with four strikeouts over four scoreless innings. Abreu, recalled earlier Tuesday from the 10-day injured list (left calf strain), worked two innings in his first action since May 26.
“Not going unnoticed was the two innings he gave us,” Baker said of Abreu. “And then Stanek and Pressly came in and did a great job with no drama.”
The Astros will try to make it two wins in a row against the A’s on Wednesday night in Houston.
Rookie right-hander Luis Garcia (6-5, 3.14 ERA) is the scheduled starter for Houston.
Garcia suffered his second loss in his past four starts on June 30, allowing four runs on three hits and three walks with five strikeouts over four innings in a 5-2 setback to the Baltimore Orioles. He won five consecutive starts bridging May and June, posting a 1.86 ERA while allowing opponents a .291 slugging percentage during that stretch.
Garcia is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA over two career starts against Oakland with 11 strikeouts over 10 innings.
Left-hander Sean Manaea (6-5, 3.13) will start for the Athletics on Wednesday. He is 0-3 over his past three starts with a 3.86 ERA. He allowed only one run or less in six of his eight starts before that.
Manaea is 3-6 with a 3.57 ERA over 16 career starts against the Astros, including 0-1 with a 4.86 ERA in three starts this season.
The Astros’ offense did have a say in the final outcome Tuesday, rallying against Athletics starter Chris Bassitt, who was 9-0 with a 2.74 ERA over his previous 15 starts. Bassitt did not take the loss Tuesday but did surrender six runs on eight hits and one walk in 4 1/3 innings.
Houston improved to 40-19 against teams with plus-.500 records, including 8-3 against Oakland.
“That whole lineup is disgusting,” Bassitt said of the Astros. “But when you don’t have your stuff, good luck.”
–Field Level Media