Kyle Tucker recorded a pair of run-scoring extra-base hits while Brandon Bielak sidestepped early trouble en route to a career-best strikeout total as the Houston Astros topped the visiting Oakland Athletics 5-1 on Friday in the opener of a three-game series.
Tucker finished 2-for-3 with a walk, a double and a home run. His RBI double in the fourth inning came two batters after Yordan Alvarez opened that frame with a 417-foot double that caromed off the center-field wall. Tucker snapped a 1-all tie with his two-bagger and extended the lead to 4-1 when he golfed his seventh homer into the right-field seats in the sixth, plating Jose Abreu.
That Houston, which extended its winning streak to five games, proved able to secure a 1-0 lead when Abreu scored on a throwing error by Athletics shortstop Aledmys Diaz in the second inning was a minor miracle. Bielak (1-1) loaded the bases with one out in the top of the first by allowing softly hit singles to Esteury Ruiz and Ryan Noda before issuing a walk to Shea Langeliers.
Bielak recovered with strikeouts of J.J. Bleday and Ramon Laureano, a preview of how vital the strikeout would become over his five-inning stint. Langeliers pulled the Athletics even with his two-out RBI double in the third, scoring Ruiz, but Bielak closed that frame by fanning Bleday. Bielak then struck out two batters apiece in the fourth and fifth innings, completing his outing with nine strikeouts against three walks. He allowed one run on five hits and tossed 88 pitches.
Athletics left-hander Ken Waldichuk (1-3) retired the Astros in order in the first and fifth innings and induced a key double play to stifle Houston after Jake Meyers and Martin Maldonado reached in succession to open the third. But Tucker victimized Waldichuk in two critical spots, and Waldichuk departed with a left lower body injury while facing Jeremy Pena in the sixth.
Alvarez and Meyers also recorded two-hit games for Houston. Astros second baseman Jose Altuve made his season debut and finished 0-for-4 with a walk. Altuve missed the first 43 games with a right thumb fracture sustained during the World Baseball Classic.
–Field Level Media
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