HOUSTON – The Astros’ offense has been scorching for a while, but now, it’s on the cusp of becoming downright historic.
“I didn’t know that,” manager Dusty Baker said of the record. “It’s a good feeling when you see that ball leave the ballpark.”
Abraham Toro, getting the first nod at third base following Alex Bregman’s trip to the injured list, added a third — a two-run blast in the seventh.
The record may be new to them, but what the Astros are doing night after night is certainly nothing out of the ordinary. They’re 12-4 in their past 16 games and have won seven of their last eight at home.
And they finally gained on the A’s, who were off Thursday. Until then, each club was 12-4 in its prior 16 games.
Many Houston hitters are responsible for this tear, but none have been more consistent than Altuve, who has eight home runs since June 6, his most ever in a 10-game span. He also has four homers in his past eight at-bats.
“He’s not missing balls, he’s not popping them up,” Baker said. “He’s hitting them squarely. It’s amazing to me. I’ve seen guys, some of the best power hitters of all time, go on streaks like this. Just keep going and we’ll take all that he can give us.”
“It’s not a surprise,” Brantley said. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s on a roll right now. I hope he keeps it going. It’s fun to hit behind him, it’s fun to watch him, it’s fun to be his teammate.”
Altuve, who already has the fourth-most hits in franchise history (1,681), can’t really explain why he’s this locked in, but he’s also not denying that he’s in a zone right now, even if it’s hard to say why.
“I think every hitter is kind of like that,” he said. “Sometimes we see the ball and hit it pretty good and sometimes it seems like it’s impossible to hit. I’m trying to swing at good pitches right now. I’m not trying to hit a homer, but getting good pitches and hitting the ball hard. We’re all doing that. We’re scoring a lot of runs per game. I’m just happy that we’re winning some games.”
The Astros and White Sox have three more games in this current set at Minute Maid Park, and considering these are two of the best teams in baseball, the series, before it started, was billed as strength vs. strength: Houston’s vaunted offense staring down Chicago’s airtight pitching.
But the first showdown ended up completely one-sided. White Sox starter Dylan Cease was gone before the end of the fourth, allowing a season-high seven runs (six earned). The Astros continued to pile on long after he was finished, padding their lead just enough to exceed the 100-run threshold for the first time in run differential (+101). That mark is the best in the Majors, with the White Sox (+99) trailing just behind in second.
The White Sox gifted the Astros with a costly error in the first inning. Yoán Moncada made an off-line throw on Chas McCormick’s ground ball, so instead of a possible double play, the Astros had runners on first and second with no one out. Brantley cleared the bases with his fourth home run, and his first since May 4.
Brantley, normally stoic and unemotional on the field, managed a smile as he rounded the bases.
“We all know this is a big series,” Brantley said. “When we got started off on the right foot, especially in the first inning, against a really good club, it’s important. I was just excited.
“I haven’t hit a home run in a while, I know we all know that. I was just excited at that moment, and the guys were loving it. And so was I.”