Astros face Blue Jays going for 100th win of season
TORONTO — The Houston Astros are on the verge of clinching first in the American League West.
They moved one step closer by defeating the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 Monday night in the opener of a three-game series at the Rogers Centre.
The 2017 World Series champions own a 4 1/2-game lead over the Oakland Athletics in the division.
James has never faced the Blue Jays. He will be making his third start in his fifth big-league appearance.
Gaviglio has not won since Aug. 21 and in four starts since is 0-2 with a 6.38 ERA. In two career starts against the Astros, both last season, he is 0-2, 5.25.
“I think everybody’s really excited about us closing in on 100 wins, closing in on the division title,” said Astros third baseman Alex Bregman who had an RBI double Monday and has reached base safely in 52 straight road games, a club record. “But there’s only one thing on our minds, that’s winning the World Series again.”
In addition to the division race, there were other story lines to the series.
One of them received a jolt after the first inning Monday when Blue Jays shortstop Lourdes Gurriel Jr. left the game with a tight left hamstring after hitting into a double play.
The 24-year-old Cuban was playing against his older brother Yuli for the first time in the majors Monday and it is not certain whether he will return to play in the series.
Yuli, 34, extended his hit streak to 10 games with an RBI single in the first. The Astros first baseman went 2-for-4 and is batting .439 (18-for-41) during his streak.
The other story involved Roberto Osuna, the former Blue Jays closer who was booed all during the ninth when he pitched around a single for his 10th save since he was traded to the Astros July 30 and his 19th overall this season. Osuna faces an assault charge that brought a 75-game suspension from major league baseball.
“It was really weird,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “Kind of mixed emotions, but I knew there was a good chance he was probably going to get it done. I’ve seen him do it too many times.”
“I think he wanted the save,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “I think he wanted the ball like he always does. I’m sure it was emotional for him.”
As for the crowd reaction, Hinch said: “It was pretty expected.”
Closer, Ken Giles, who was traded by the Astros to the Blue Jays as part of the deal for Osuna, did not pitch Monday.
The Astros continued to play without shortstop Carlos Correa Monday. He was shut down during the Astros’ recent homestand with lingering back and oblique tightness. Hinch said the earliest he could return is Wednesday.
“He’s feeling a little bit better,” Hinch said. “I’m encouraged by the fact that he’s doing baseball activities and feeling pain-free, which is the key.”
The Astros are 17-4 during September, the best record in the majors. They are 53-22 away from home, matching their club-record road win total set last season.
Houston is 3-1 against Toronto this season. The Blue Jays outhit the Astros 11-10 Monday. It was the second time in as many games that they have lost while outhitting the opposition and the 10th time this season overall.