Valbuena homers twice as Astros beat Rockies 8-5
HOUSTON (AP) All Luis Valbuena does is hit home runs. At least that's what it seems like to his teammates.
With his rookie pitcher needing an offensive boost Tuesday, Valbuena homered in consecutive innings - including a three-run shot in a five-run third - to help the Houston Astros beat the Colorado Rockies 8-5.
''This guy is like the kid who only hits homers,'' said catcher Hank Conger, who homered in the fifth inning.
Valbuena has 41 hits this season, including a team-leading 16 homers.
''Big boost for us especially when we get down early right there and for him to hit that pitch out right there,'' Conger said, ''especially against a tough lefty today that was throwing pretty well through his first couple of innings, was really huge for us.''
Valbuena hit a solo homer in the second off Chris Rusin (2-2) and added the three-run drive the next inning. His first homer landed in the Crawford Boxes in left field and showed his new patient approach at the plate.
''That's where I tried to hit it,'' the lefty-hitting third baseman said. ''Right now I try to stay back and hit the ball that way. Everybody's aggressive if you throw a pitch in the strike zone everybody tries to hit it. Don't hit the pitch he wants you to hit, hit the pitch you want.''
Will Harris (3-0) pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of rookie Vince Velasquez, who gave up five runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings. Luke Gregerson threw a perfect ninth for his 17th save in 19 chances.
Rusin (2-2) wasted a 3-1 lead and gave up seven runs and nine hits in four innings.
''Their averages aren't good but they live and die by the home run,'' Rusin said. ''They hit a couple today. I wasn't able to keep the ball in the ballpark. Unfortunately we took the loss.''
The win came on the day that reports of an FBI investigation on the St. Louis Cardinals' involvement with hacking Houston's email system surfaced.
Houston All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve went 1 for 4 with an RBI and a walk after missing three games because of a strained right hamstring. While he was back in the lineup manager A.J. Hinch was cautious about his ability to go full speed.
''I talked to him during the game and he assured me that he was just guarded more than anything else,'' the Astros' manager said. ''I'll check with him, we'll get on the airplane, I'm not sure what I'm going to do the next day or two with him but he feels fine and was just making sure that there wasn't any mishap from what he told me.''
Carlos Gonzalez hit a two-run homer for Colorado that chased Velasquez. He was also initially credited with a solo homer over the right-field foul pole in the seventh, but first-base umpire Bob Davidson's fair call was overturned in a video review.
Domingo Santana hit an RBI single to right in the third for his first major league hit. Santana, called up Monday, was 0 for 17 with 14 strikeouts last season.
Rockies: Kyle Kendrick (2-8) faces the Astros on Wednesday, when the teams play in Denver.
Astros: Brett Oberholtzer (1-1) is to make his third start for Houston on Wednesday.
Rockies: Rafael Betancourt, on the disabled list since June 8 with vertigo symptoms, pitched a bullpen session. Manager Walt Weiss said there is no timetable for his return.
Astros: Brad Peacock is scheduled to see another doctor regarding his right hip injury.
Third baseman Matt Dominguez was claimed off waivers from the Astros by the Milwaukee Brewers and assigned to Triple-A Colorado Springs.
A GIFT FOR MOM
Standing in front of his locker with a big smile, Santana knows where his first hit souvenir is going. As he showed off the ball he struck for his first major league hit he said it will land in the hands of his mother.
''I hope she keeps it safe,'' Santana said with a smile. ''It's just really special, a dream come true.''
With the two teams slated to fly to Denver on Tuesday night there was a watchful eye on tropical storm Bill which is currently working its way through Southeast Texas. Despite the specter of a deluge of rain both teams are on track to make their trip to the Rocky Mountain state.
Rockies catcher Michael McKenry hit his third triple in five games. McKenry had gone his first 276 major league games without a triple.