At this early stage of the season, myriad factors can be at the root of a slumping offense, and the Houston Astros entered a three-game road series against the Toronto Blue Jays seeking answers.
Houston, which posted an 11-7 win in the series opener on Friday, will hope that result represented a breakout heading into the rematch on Saturday.
The Astros matched their season high with 14 hits, getting three apiece from Yuli Gurriel and Yordan Alvarez. Alex Bregman, Jeremy Pena and Alvarez hit home runs, and Aledmys Diaz was the only starter who failed to record a hit.
Entering the night, Houston had averaged 3.5 runs in its previous four games. Even so, the Astros are now riding a four-game winning streak.
“I have a lot of faith in this club,” Gurriel said. “We’ve always hit well, and we know that we have time. It’s still the beginning of the season.”
The day began poorly for the Astros when left fielder Michael Brantley was scratched due to health and safety protocol. Houston, which entered the weekend last in the American League in batting (.204) and 12th with a .279 on-base percentage, rolled without him.
Alvarez and Bregman scored three times each. Gurriel and Jose Siri both recorded two doubles, and Kyle Tucker and Alvarez posted multi-hit, multi-RBI games. Pena and Alvarez both knocked in three runs.
“I knew (the hitting) was going to come sooner or later,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We’ve got some guys swinging better.”
Luis Garcia (1-0, 4.60 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Astros on Saturday, and he will face Toronto for the second consecutive outing.
The right-hander did not factor into the decision in the Astros’ 8-7, 10-inning victory over the Blue Jays on Sunday, having allowed five runs on five hits and one walk with six strikeouts over six innings.
In two career starts against the Blue Jays, Garcia is 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 12 innings. The 2021 American League Rookie of the Year runner-up, Garcia is 12-9 with a 3.53 ERA over 38 career appearances (32 starts).
Right-hander Jose Berrios (1-0, 4.91 ERA) will make his fifth start of the season for Toronto on Saturday.
He is 3-3 with a 5.46 ERA over six career starts against the Astros. Berrios faced Houston once last year while with the Minnesota Twins, and he allowed two runs on five hits and one walk with eight strikeouts over seven innings in a 5-2 victory on June 12.
Berrios made seven more starts for the Twins before being shipped to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline.
Berrios is coming off consecutive quality starts, both against the Boston Red Sox, having allowed three runs on 13 hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts over 13 innings during that stretch.
The Blue Jays fell to 3-2 on their 10-day, 10-game homestand despite some offensive fireworks of their own on Friday.
Toronto trailed 4-1 but tied the game 4-4 on a three-run homer from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the third inning. Houston then pulled away for a 10-4 lead before the Blue Jays got within three on a Matt Chapman homer in the seventh.
“We thought we had a chance to come back until the end,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said.
–Field Level Media