The Houston Astros enter Tuesday’s game against the visiting Kansas City Royals with sluggers Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker on a roll.
Before Alvarez inflicted what has become his customary damage in the bottom of the ninth inning on Monday, he teamed with Tucker, a fellow left-handed hitter, to swing momentum by capitalizing on a situation that would typically prove disadvantageous to both.
The Astros’ 7-6 victory over the Royals in the opener of a four-game series pivoted when Alvarez and Tucker delivered against Royals lefty reliever Amir Garrett. Houston entered the eighth inning trailing by three runs before Alvarez worked a walk off Garrett two batters before Tucker produced a two-run single against Garrett that sliced the deficit to 6-5.
Inserting a left-handed pitcher to negate left-handed hitting is commonplace. However, Tucker entered the series with better OPS (.857) against left-handers than right-handers (.838) while Alvarez had a .828 OPS against southpaws. Of course, Alvarez did enter with a 1.166 OPS against righties, and his walk-off homer in the ninth came off Royals right-hander Scott Barlow.
“They’re going to bring in a lefty to combat a lefty and our lefties are pretty equal to both,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “That was big, that was real big on our lefties to draw a walk and get a hit.”
Right-hander Luis Garcia (6-5, 3.54 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Astros on Tuesday. He has won each of his last three starts, posting a 3.31 ERA during that stretch. In his last appearance, Garcia limited the New York Yankees to one run on three hits and two walks with six strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings in a 2-1 victory on June 30.
Garcia took the loss against the Royals on June 4, allowing two runs on four hits and one walk with two strikeouts over seven innings in a 6-0 road setback. He is 1-1 with a 2.41 ERA over three career starts against the Royals with 12 hits allowed plus 12 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.
Right-hander Zack Greinke (2-4, 4.38 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Royals on Tuesday. He has recorded consecutive wins and quality starts, limiting the Texas Rangers to one run on four hits and one walk with three strikeouts over six innings in a 2-1 victory on June 29. Greinke will make his 501st career start and move into 47th place in major league history.
Greinke is 6-3 with a 2.59 ERA over 11 career starts against the Astros, for whom he went 22-10 with a 3.89 over 52 appearances (51 starts) between 2019-21.
After lauding the play of his team on the road earlier on Monday, Royals manager Mike Matheny acknowledged the gut punch that followed later in the day. The Royals jumped out to a 5-0 lead through three innings and seemed to add insurance when catcher MJ Melendez socked his second homer of the game to open the eighth and extend the advantage back to three runs.
But two days after surrendering back-to-back home runs in a walk-off loss at Detroit, the Royals were felled in the bottom of the ninth once again.
“It’s one of the tougher ones of the season,” Matheny said. “You like the chances of us being able to finish that off.”
–Field Level Media