• Brian L. Barefield

Astros sweep doubleheader from Oakland

Photo Credit/Houston Astros

The Houston Astros finally got back to doing what they love and that is playing baseball. After having two days off as a safety precaution due to inclement weather that was supposed to make its way towards the city. Houston, in a collaborative effort with the Oakland A’s postponed Friday’s game to unite and raise awareness against the social injustice and systemic racism that has our country on edge and divided in some instances.

Houston (19-14) played its second doubleheader at Minute Maid Park within a week [Third in park history] and took both games from Oakland (22-12) who currently leads the American League West division by 2.5 games. The Astros won the first game by a score of 4-2 and then took the nightcap 6-3.

Outfielder Kyle Tucker is becoming a household name for not only Astros fans, but MLB fans as well. He has clearly let it be known to pitchers that he has learned to be patient at the plate and no longer swings for the fences at every at bat. The former No. 5 overall draft pick in the 2015 MLB Draft has become one of the hardest outs in baseball and that didn’t change on Saturday.

Tucker’s three-run homer in the bottom of the first inning with two-outs, combined with seven strikeouts and one earned run in six strong innings pitched by Lance McCullers Jr. (3-2) gave Houston the victory. Outfielder Josh Reddick added a solo shot in the fourth inning for an insurance run for McCullers who was able to work himself out of a jam in the top of the sixth inning when his throwing error to first base eventually cost them one-run.

Photo Credit/ Houston Astros

“I had kind of gotten away with who I am a little bit. Especially on my road starts,” said McCullers who threw over 90 pitches for the third game in a row. “I just went out there and was comfortable with my ability to throw strikes on all my pitches and it was a good game.”

Photo Credit/ Houston Astros

Game 2 started exactly how Game 1 did with Tucker driving in three-runs. This time he did it with what has become his specialty during the first 33 games of the 2020 season and that is the triple. Tucker hit his major league leading sixth triple of the season to clear the bases in the bottom of the first inning to put Houston up by two-runs and they never relinquished the lead. He broke the previous team record held by Omar Moreno and Joe Morgan which was 5.

“I’ve been seeing the ball really well,” Tucker said who has been on fire over the past seven games batting .500 (7-for-14). “I haven’t chased a lot of pitches, which is a big part of that. If you’re not chasing pitches and you’re getting good pitches over the plate that you can hit, you will be even more productive that way.”

Starting pitcher Zack Greinke (2-0) who started the morning with a stiff neck, went five innings giving up three earned runs while striking out six batters.

“I wasn’t sure if my neck was going to loosen up, but it did closer to game time,” Greinke said. “It was a tough game for me, but overall it was a lot of great baseball.”

Photo Credit/Houston Astros

Houston’s leadoff hitter George Springer gave his teammate the run support he needed in the second inning when he took the A’s starting pitcher Frankie Montas (2-3) to deep left field to put the Astros up by four runs.

Manager Dusty Baker was happy with his team’s overall performance on Saturday by getting those two wins over the team they are chasing. Houston has gone 4-1 in the five games played in this homestand so far and has improved to 14-5 at Minute Maid Park this season. They series finale will be Sunday at 1:10pm.

“We have a chance to sweep them, but we know they are going to be tough to beat tomorrow,” said Baker.

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