HOUSTON (AP) — On a day when Houston’s powerful hitters were lagging, the Astros found a way to generate runs in another way.
Mike Fiers struck out a season-high 11 over seven strong innings and Nori Aoki had two hits and two RBIs to help the Astros beat the Minnesota Twins 5-3 on Sunday.
The AL West leaders took two of three from the Twins coming out of the All-Star break.
Houston trailed in the fourth before Yuli Gurriel doubled, Marwin Gonzalez walked and Aoki hit a two-run double for a 3-2 lead.
The Astros added a couple of insurance runs in the seventh thanks to alert baserunning. Jake Marisnick walked, stole second base and scored on an error by first baseman Kennys Vargas. Jose Altuve doubled, stole third and dashed home when Josh Reddick was thrown out at first on a third strike that got away.
“We were dragging a little bit today,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “We couldn’t quite get a ton going … we haven’t been as active on the bases as we can be, but it shows that when we needed to win a game in a different way than we’ve won in the last couple months we’ve still got that weapon.”
Twins manager Paul Molitor lamented his team’s inability to handle Houston’s running in the seventh.
“They made some really aggressive plays and put some pressure on us, and we couldn’t stop them,” he said.
Fiers (6-4) allowed two runs on four hits and no walks. He had walked eight combined in his last two starts.
“The key right there is command,” he said. “When you can command all your pitches any pitch feels really confident going out there. Just command and keeping them off balance and just making good pitches. Even if they’re sitting on a pitch if you throw it in the right spot it’s still hard to hit.”
Ken Giles gave up a run in the ninth for his 20th save.
Vargas and Ehire Adrianza hit solo homers for Minnesota. Kyle Gibson (5-8) yielded four runs in six-plus innings.
Vargas gave the Twins a 1-0 lead with his shot to right-center in the second. The Astros tied it in the bottom half on singles by Alex Bregman, Aoki and Marisnick.
Adrianza put the Twins back on top when he hit his first homer of the season in the third.
Robbie Grossman singled with two outs in the third before Fiers retired six in a row. Adrianza singled with two outs in the fifth, but he was picked off at first to end the inning and Fiers didn’t allow another baserunner before he was replaced by Chris Devenski to start the eighth.
Astros: Injured ace Dallas Keuchel will make a rehabilitation start for Double-A Corpus Christi on Monday. Keuchel hasn’t pitched since June 2 because of a pinched nerve in his neck. The lefty will likely need multiple starts in the minors before he comes off the DL, but the Astros haven’t yet determined exactly how many he will need. He’s expected to throw two innings on Monday.
Altuve had two hits on Sunday to extend his hitting streak to nine games, which ties a season high. He is hitting .525 with four doubles, three homers and 11 RBIs in that span.
MAKE IT A DOUBLE
With two doubles on Sunday the Astros extended their franchise-record streak of games with at least one double to 49 games. It’s the third-longest such streak in the majors since 1913 behind a 51-game streak by the Braves in 1999 and a 75-game one by the 1996 Indians.
Astros: Lance McCullers (7-2, 3.05) is set to start for Houston when the Astros begin a three-game series with the Mariners on Monday. McCullers yielded nine hits and a season-high six runs in 4 1/3 innings of a 7-4 loss to Toronto his last time out.