KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Yordan Álvarez hit his 16th home run of the season and Framber Valdez won his fifth straight start for the Houston Astros, who beat the Kansas City Royals 7-4 on Sunday.
Álvarez led off the eighth inning with a 456-foot shot to right. It was one of three hits for him, extending his hitting streak to seven games. He’s batting .556 (15-for-27) with six multi-hit games in the span.
“It’s just part of baseball,” Álvarez said. “I’ve just been going out there trying to get pitches. Thankfully I’ve been getting them. I just felt good. I felt really good. I felt like I was going to do some damage today.”
“It is just impressive. Obviously, he got paid $115 million for a reason,” Royals starting pitcher Jonathan Heasley said, referring to media reports that Álvarez will get a hefty contract extension in the coming days. “The dude is probably the best hitter I’ve faced. He covers the zone and when he hits it, he hits it.”
The Astros started their offense in the third, when Jose Altuve hit a one-out double before scoring on Mauricio Dubon’s sacrifice fly. The Astros extended their lead to 3-0 in the fourth on Álvarez’s leadoff triple. Álvarez then scored on a wild pitch before Kyle Tucker lined his ninth homer to straightaway center.
“(Álvarez) hit the ball hard today,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He hit that (home run) a ton. But I was more impressed with the other balls he hit down the line. He’s heating up.”
Tucker added an RBI single during a three-run ninth inning.
“Every guy in the lineup are really good hitters, but obviously him hitting behind me in the lineup felt good,” Álvarez said. “We both hit homers.”
Valdez (6-2) allowed only a third-inning leadoff single before the Royals got on the board in the sixth. Whit Merrifield led off the frame with a single, followed by Salvador Perez’s two-out drive over the center-field fence. Perez leads Kansas City with eight homers.
“I wanted to throw that pitch a little bit lower there in that spot,” Valdez said. “It caught a little bit too much of the plate. He’s a really good hitter and he was able to drive that.”
Valdez went six innings, allowing two runs on four hits, walking three and striking out five. In his last six starts, Valdez has a 2.11 ERA (10 earned runs in 42 2/3 innings) and the Astros have won all six.
“Framber pitched good,” Baker said. “He didn’t want to come out. But after his last (start), 115 pitches or whatever, he was on a very short leash. After the home run by Perez — he’s a dangerous man — it was 3-2 and I had a fresh bullpen and I figured it was time to go to my bullpen.”
Perez’s RBI double in the eighth cut Houston’s lead to 4-3.
“(Perez) amazes us,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “How he continues to figure things out, keeps his head down and keeps going. He is just so talented. Only so many people can hit the ball out of the ballpark as he does, and it is in big situations, too. He has a knack. He thrives in those situations. He wants to be the guy and he has been coming through for us the last couple of nights.”
Ryan Pressly was ejected in the ninth inning after the umpires issued a warning for pitching inside to Michael A. Taylor, leading to the Royals loading the bases with two out in the ninth. Rafael Montero ended the threat for his fourth save.
“I guess we’re not allowed to pitch inside in the big leagues any more,” Pressly said. “I don’t know how many of them hit us and there was no warning given. I would understand if I’d gone up and in on him or threw a pitch at his head, but both those pitches were inside, moving his feet. But, to warn me about something like that and then to throw me out while I was questioning him for warning me, you’ve got to be better than that.”
Heasley (0-3) worked six innings for Kansas City, allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks, with five strikeouts.
“Overall, I thought it was my strongest outing of the year as far as pure stuff goes,” Heasley said. “I felt like I had my curveball working for the first time and was really confident with it. I felt like I was able to put guys away a little more than I have been able to do in the last few starts.”
The Royals have not won a home series since April 17-19 when they took two of three from the Minnesota Twins.
Andrew Benintendi left the game in the eighth inning for precautionary reasons after fouling a ball off his right calf.
The Astros return home Monday as RHP Cristian Javier (3-2, 2.41 ERA) takes the mound against Seattle’s LHP Robbie Ray (4-6, 4.93 ERA). The Royals continue their homestand with LHP Daniel Lynch (2-4, 4.81 ERA) facing off with Toronto’s RHP Ross Stripling (1-1, 4.22 ERA).