Carter, Gonzalez, Gattis HR, Astros win 4th in row, top Jays
HOUSTON (AP) Chris Carter might be off to a slow start this season, but he knows he belongs in the Astros lineup.
So does his manager.
Carter reminded everyone else why on Saturday night, blasting a 3-run homer to help the Houston Astros rally past the Toronto Blue Jays 6-5 for their fourth consecutive win.
''Tonight is a great illustration of why he belongs in the lineup,'' Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. ''He can impact a game any given second.''
With Houston trailing by one, Carter hit his sixth homer of the season off Blue Jays reliever Liam Hendricks to score Preston Tucker and Colby Rasmus for a 5-3 lead.
''I was just trying to keep the ball up the middle and hit it hard and whatever happens, happens,'' said Carter, who entered the game batting just .155.
Marwin Gonzalez took Hendricks deep to right centerfield one out later to cap the scoring for the American League West-leading Astros, who, at 24-13, are off to their best 37-game start since 1999.
It marks the latest the Astros have been in first place since May 22, 2004, when they led the National League Central at 24-18.
''When we get four quality plate appearances in the first four or five hitters, that's how you piece together runs and how we came back tonight,'' Hinch said.
Toronto made it close late, thanks to pinch-hitter Edwin Encarnacion's two-run blast with two outs in the ninth off Luke Gregerson.
Gregerson recovered to get Josh Donaldson to fly out for the final out and the save, his ninth.
Evan Gattis hit his seventh homer of the season -- a two-run blast in the third -- and right-hander Scott Feldman (3-4) overcame a rough start to last 6 2-3 innings and strike out a season-high 10 in the process.
''Feldman gave up three in the first and then he settled in,'' Toronto manager John Gibbons said. ''He's a proven, crafty veteran.''
It was Feldman's first win since April 30 against Seattle and came after back-to-back losing decisions to start May.
Russell Martin gave the Blue Jays the early lead with a two-run triple in the first inning. He came home on a Josh Smoak one-out single to make it 3-0 Toronto.
But that would be all the Blue Jays would muster offensively against Feldman, who allowed them just two hits the rest of the way.
''It was a rough first inning, actually,'' Feldman said. ''There's been a couple of those lately.
''Hopefully, just moving forward I can just get the guys out in the first inning like I'm trying to.''
Toronto right-hander Marco Estrada lasted five innings. He gave up the two-run homer to Gattis and scattered two other hits while striking out eight and walking four.
Estrada said he wanted to go back out for the sixth but was told his pitch count was high.
''I didn't realize my pitch count was so high,'' he said. ''That's what walks are going to do.
''I've got to go deeper in games. That's all I'm thinking about, going six-plus.''
Jeff Francis (1-2) replaced Estrada to start the sixth and got in trouble quickly for the loss, allowing Tucker to single and Rasmus to hit a ground-rule double to set the stage for Carter.
''I feel I've been swinging a lot better now.'' Carter said. ''I think things are about to turn around for me.''
Encarnacion's pinch-hit home run was only the second of his career and the first pinch-hit homer by the Blue Jays this season. ... Martin's triple in the first inning was his first since Sept. 9, 2007, at San Francisco.
Feldman's 10 strikeouts were the most since he fanned a career-high 12 on May 1, 2013 against San Diego.
Blue Jays: 2B Devon Travis left the game with left shoulder irritation after striking out in the seventh. ... SS Jose Reyes, on the disabled list (cracked rib) since April, took batting practice. He is expected to go on rehab assignment next week.
Blue Jays: LHP Mark Buehrle (5-2, 5.54) will try to win his third straight decision.
Astros: RHP Collin McHugh (4-1, 3.50 ERA) will look to rebound after posting his first loss of the season Tuesday against San Francisco.