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Astros aim for another power display vs. Nationals

Jun 13, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker (30) tosses his bat after hitting a home run during the fifth inning against the Washington Nationals at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

With one of baseball’s more fearsome sluggers sidelined for the foreseeable future, the Houston Astros still displayed plenty of power while downing the Washington Nationals on Tuesday.

Absent Yordan Alvarez and his club-leading 17 home runs, the Astros turned solo homers from Mauricio Dubon, Kyle Tucker, Martin Maldonado and Chas McCormick into a 6-1 interleague home victory in the series opener. Houston and Washington will play the middle game of the three-game set on Wednesday.

The Astros’ power display was impressive, but it still was somewhat lacking considering the team’s inability to deliver those blows with runners on base.

Houston finished 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Jose Abreu and Jose Altuve delivered RBI singles in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively, with runners on second base. However, those hits came after Abreu was stranded at second following his leadoff double in the second inning, and the Astros left the bases loaded in the third.

Alvarez is on the 10-day injured list due to right oblique discomfort, but he is unlikely to return when first eligible on Monday.

“We just have to do what we can to try and score as many runs as we can,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Yordan is a ways off, so we’ve got to carry on until he gets back.

“Power is great, but I’d rather have some power with some runners on base, but I’ll take it any time I can get it. We have to get better … at advancing runners. We’ve got some improvements to make, but winning ballgames in the meantime is what’s important.”

Framber Valdez (6-5, 2.36 ERA) has the starting assignment for Houston on Wednesday.

The left-hander had his four-game winning streak snapped on Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays after he allowed three runs on four hits and four walks with five strikeouts over five innings in a 3-2 defeat. Valdez was 4-0 with a 1.59 ERA during a five-start span that saw him record 39 strikeouts against six walks over 34 innings.

Valdez has faced the Nationals once previously, when he surrendered one run on seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings in a 6-1 road victory on May 13, 2022.

Josiah Gray (4-5, 3.00 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Nationals on Wednesday.

While the right-hander is unbeaten over his past six starts, he has failed to record a victory in his past three outings, pitching to a 4.40 ERA while recording 14 strikeouts against nine walks over 14 1/3 innings.

Gray last lost on May 5 against the Arizona Diamondbacks when he allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts over five innings. He opened the season with losses in each of his first four starts.

Gray has made one career start against the Astros, losing against Valdez last year. He allowed six runs on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts over six innings.

On Tuesday, the Nationals made their first appearance in Houston since winning Game 7 of the 2019 World Series there. Left-hander Patrick Corbin, who started and took the loss on Tuesday, is the lone player currently on the active roster who participated in that series. He pitched three scoreless innings of relief in Game 7 to earn the victory.

“It was four years ago,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said, “but it brings out good memories.”

–Field Level Media