BOSTON – After veteran outfielder Michael Brantley was taken off the injured list on Tuesday, the Astros have no key players in their EL offense for the first time this year. Jose Altuve missed 60 games due to two injuries, Yordan Alvarez missed 39 games due to an oblique strain, and Brantley missed the first 133 games of the season after shoulder surgery.
Houston’s offense was already putting up some huge numbers before Brantley’s return, but his presence in the lineup in the 6-2 win over the Red Sox bolstered the Astros, despite going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Houston had nine hits and tied the club record with 66 strikeouts in four games that ended Tuesday.
The Astros, who won four consecutive titles, are facing a three-way match in the American League West after the Rangers beat the Mets and the Mariners fell to the first division on Wednesday. With head-to-head record defining tie-breakers in the standings, Houston leads Texas, 6-4, with three games remaining between the two clubs Sept. 4-6, and the Mariners win the season series against the Astros, 8-2.
Houston is 17-11 in their last 28 games, thanks mostly to an offense that has become a strength.
After scoring 30 points in the previous two games, the Astros kept the hot bat going in the first half at Fenway Park on Tuesday when Alex Bregman and Alvarez hit back-to-back homers. Mauricio Dupont’s double made it 5-1, and the Astros were on pace to improve to 8-0-2 in their last 10-way series.
“Some guys started swinging bats,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. Sexy Preggie, Sexy Alvarez, [Jose] Altuve was hot yesterday [hitting for the cycle]. It was a great day for Michael because he hit the ball hard a few times and had nothing to show for it. We needed this win badly, so hopefully we can get the win tomorrow and go home.
The runs helped rookie right fielder JP France recover from a disastrous performance against the Red Sox just five days earlier. France allowed two runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings pitched for his 10th win, the most in a player’s first 20 career games in Astros history.
The Astros are slashing .302/.380/.492 with 31 homers in their last 21 games, going 12-9. They’ve had 14 double-digit winning games in that span and average 6.6 points and 11.1 hits per game, despite holding on to one round or fewer five times since Aug. 13.
Bregman took Red Sox outfielder Brian Bellew deep in the first inning, giving him 22 homers and 88 RBIs. He went 3-for-5 with his third three-hit game in his last nine games. He has slashed .432/.545/.795 since August 19th.
“It was big to come out and get some runs on the board,” Bregman said. “We knew we were up against a tough team, a tough team. We knew they were going to fight the whole game. I thought JP did a great job, made some great adjustments. I thought our line-up was relentless today and it was definitely fun having Uncle Mike back. He brought a lot of energy.” for players.”
Brantley, playing in his first major league game since June 26, 2022, had out speeds of 102.2mph, 99.1mph, 97.6mph and 104.1mph on the four swings he put balls into play . Baker said Brantley will start at designated hitter in Wednesday’s series finale.
“It feels different when he’s in the lineup,” said Dupont, who hit .339 (20-for-59) in August after hitting .200 in July. “I think it’s crazy just to have it back and everyone is cringing now.”
Alvarez followed Bregman’s first-inning laser homer at an exit speed of 113.1 mph down the right field line and in the benches for his second homer in as many games. A fourth-inning double to left that hit high off the Green Monster gave Álvarez hitting on eight straight batters. He is 36-for-112 (.321) with six homers and 22 RBIs in 29 games since coming off the IL.
“I told him on the plane from Detroit, I said, ‘Once you see the green monster, you’re going to go,'” Bregman said. “He does a great job of using the whole field, and this is the perfect pitch for him to do that. He hits some balls hard to the right field, some balls hard to the left…. It’s a great place for him.
And great news for the Astros’ offense is back.
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