The Houston Astros sit atop the AL in large part due to their late-inning heroics.
After winning with that recipe again in their series opener against the visiting Baltimore Orioles, they’ll look for a more comfortable victory Tuesday night – though facing rookie Mike Wright hardly seems like an easy task.
Houston (32-20) ranks atop the majors with 94 runs scored after the sixth inning, four of which came in Monday’s 5-2 win over Baltimore (23-27). George Springer and Jose Altuve each drove in a run in the seventh before Evan Gattis broke it open with a two-run single.
”As the game goes along, for whatever reason, our at-bats get better and better,” manager A.J. Hinch said. ”We punched out early in the game and then didn’t late.
"I wish I had the answers because I’d play that answer earlier in the game.”
The Astros dropped two of three at Baltimore last week, yet still managed to produce in the late innings. Of the 13 runs they’ve scored over the last three meetings with the Orioles, 11 have come in the seventh or later.
”I just think that this is a very resilient team and the last six to nine (innings) is always a good spot for us, and I think that’s a good sign of things to come,” Springer said.
Wright (2-0, 1.40 ERA) will look to continue the impressive start to his career. He began it with consecutive scoreless outings totaling 14 1-3 innings before allowing three runs over five innings – all on the first two homers he’s given up – in Thursday’s 6-3 win over the Chicago White Sox.
In Wright’s sole appearance away from Baltimore, he yielded three hits in seven innings at Miami on May 23.
He’ll oppose Collin McHugh (5-2, 4.24), who started eventual Houston victories in each of his first six outings behind a 3.23 ERA. McHugh has stumbled to a 5.84 ERA and a 1-2 record in his last four, though, after surrendering four runs in six innings – including homers to Chris Davis and Steve Pearce – in the Astros’ 5-4 loss on Wednesday.
Houston’s bullpen gave up the game-winning run in that contest, but worked 3 2-3 perfect innings Monday to bounce back after allowing three homers in their last 12 innings.
Baltimore’s relievers were not as successful. Taking over for starter Ubaldo Jimenez, Brad Brach allowed three runs and recorded only two outs. He had previously allowed only one run in his last 10 innings, including two scoreless appearances against the Astros.
”He just couldn’t seem to get himself back in sync,” manager Buck Showalter said. ”Got into a little rut there and couldn’t make an adjustment. Something we thought he had gotten over.’
Adam Jones (ankle) returned from a two-game absence Monday to DH, and could play the field on Tuesday. J.J. Hardy, who sat Monday with soreness in his left side, remains questionable.
Those two have provided trouble for McHugh in the past. Jones and Hardy are both 3 for 6 against the right-hander, and Jones has a home run.