• Brian L. Barefield

It’s Your Birthday: The Astros celebrated catcher Martin Maldonado’s birthday with a walk-off win.

Kyle Tucker -Photo Credit/Houston Astros

Kyle Tucker capped off a great birthday weekend for his teammate Martin Maldonado. His walk-off homerun in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Astros (11-10) a 3-2 win over the Seattle Mariners (7-16) and capped off a sweep of the series. Houston is now on a four-game winning streak and have won five out of the six games they have played in Minute Made Park.

“The law of averages is on our side,” said Dusty Baker about his team finally winning some close games after losing eight games this season by less than three runs. “We won two 1-run games in a row. That’s the secret to winning championships by winning close games. Hopefully this is the start of a lot of games to win.”

Houston got on the board first when George Springer drove in Abraham Toro after he reached base on a fielding error by Mariners second baseman Dee Gordon. After trailing going into the top of the third inning, the Mariners responded with two runs of their own after rookie catcher Joseph Odom got his first career hit and RBI single to bring in Evan White who had been hit by a pitch to start the inning. Odom would later be brought home by Seattle’s superstar outfielder Kyle Lewis with an RBI single to right-center field to give the Mariners a one-run lead.

That would be all the runs starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1) would allow the Mariners as he struck out the next four batters in a row before being relieved in the sixth inning.

“I would have loved to have finish the sixth inning,” said McCullers who had seven strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings. “I understand the pull. My pitch count was the highest it has been post T.J. (Tommy John surgery).

One area of improvement Houston has benefitted the most is the one that has caused so much pain in the past for the Astros and their fans has been the erratic play of the bullpen. Earlier on in the season and one game during this current home stand, the bullpen had given up too many games by allowing late runs.

That has seemed to change as they yielded one run this entire series. On Sunday, the combination of Andre Scrubb, Enoli Paredes, and Ryan Pressly (who go the win) closed out the game for Houston.

“I am quite amazed at by what this young bullpen is doing,” said McCullers. “Man, they have been unbelievable.”

Amazing would also describe the hero of the game Kyle Tucker. Although he had been hitting the ball fairly well, the former two-time Minor League Player of the Year had failed to consistently go deep this season. He entered the game with just one home run in 73 at bats. All that changed when he hit a 96-mph fast ball to deep right field off of Mariners reliever Erik Swanson (0-2) to win the game and save Houston from having to play their sixth extra innings game.

"I put a good swing on the ball and hit the ball well for the first time in a while, it seems like. Hopefully, I can build off of that," Tucker said.

Manager Dusty Baker gave Martin Maldonado another great gift on his birthday. The steal sign from first base. The 34-year old stole his first base since 2016 when he was with the Milwaukee Brewers. It was his third in his career and his first in the American League.

Photo Credit/ Houston Astros

“For me to score from first base, would mean Georgie (Springer) would have had to hit a homer,” Maldonado said after the game.

Maldonado used some slick word play to get Baker to buy into letting him steal. He went to Baker with a proposal of letting him get his first steal. What he left out was he had two career stolen bases in the National League and none in the A.L.

“I went to Altuve after he stole the base and asked him was that his first stolen base,” said Baker. “He said, ‘Probably.’ I didn’t know it was his third. It was a heck of a birthday present he gave himself and gave us.”

The Astros will finish their home stand by playing the Colorado Rockies for two games starting Monday.

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