HOUSTON (AP) — Kyle Tucker homered, José Altuve made his season debut and the Houston Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 5-1 on Friday night for their fifth straight victory.
Tucker hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning that landed deep in right where many fans wore metallic gold crowns in honor of “King Tuck.” It was Tucker’s bobblehead night, honoring his 2022 Gold Glove. His seventh homer of the year came off Ken Waldichuk (1-3) and scored José Abreu.
“I didn’t even know it was my bobblehead night,” Tucker said. “Maybe we should do that more often.”
Tucker also doubled in the fourth to score Yordan Alvarez, who led off with a double of his own off the top of the wall in center. The Astros have won eight of their last nine games.
There was an added buzz in the Minute Maid Park atmosphere for Altuve’s 2023 debut. The 33-year-old veteran had been on the injured list since fracturing his right thumb March 18 while playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. Altuve went 0 for 4 with a walk.
“It was great — everybody was pleased,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “You figured he’d be a little rusty but that rust will subside and come off of him the more at-bats he’ll have and the more he plays.”
Astros starter Brandon Bielak (1-1) pitched five innings, allowing one run on five hits while walking three and striking out nine.
Waldichuk allowed three runs and five hits in five innings before leaving the game in the sixth inning with a mild calf strain, and he will be evaluated on Saturday, manager Mark Kotsay said.
“I thought Ken went out there and grinded,” Kotsay said. “He got hurt tonight in the middle of the order. A couple of breaking balls just hung in the zone for Tucker, and they took advantage of it.”
Houston took the lead in the second. Abreu led with an infield single, and Jeremy Peña grounded into a fielder’s choice that led to a throwing error that helped bring Abreu home.
Oakland’s lone run came in the third when Shea Langeliers doubled to deep right-center to score Esteury Ruiz.
Alex Bregman singled in the eighth to score Jake Meyers and put Houston up 5-1.
Oakland has lost 10 of the last 12 games. At 10-36, the A’s are off to the worst start through 46 games since Baltimore started 1988 at 9-37.
Oakland: RHP reliever Zach Jackson was placed on the 15-day injured list with a flexor tendon strain in his right elbow. Manager Mark Kotsay estimated Jackson could be out 4-6 weeks. The team also designated Zach Neal for assignment and added RHP Lucas Erceg to the active roster.
Houston: RHP Luis Garcia underwent ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery (Tommy John) on his right elbow on Friday, Astros General Manager Dana Brown said. Garcia, 26, is 28-19 with a 3.61 ERA in 69 appearances (63 starts) in his career. He will miss the remainder of the 2023 season and is expected to return at some point during the 2024 season, the Astros said.
DIAZ GETS HIS RING
Oakland SS Aledmys Díaz had his 2022 World Series ring hand-delivered to him by Astros manager Dusty Baker. Díaz played four seasons with the Astros and received a video tribute and warm ovation from the Houston crowd.
Astros outfielder Corey Julks singled off Oakland reliver Austin Pruitt in the sixth inning. Both players attended the University of Houston, not far from Minute Maid Park. They did not play together at UH, however.
Oakland left fielder JJ Bleday saved at least two runs, possibly three, with an improbable diving catch in deep left-center field. With two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth inning, Bleday sprinted down a line drive from Martín Maldonado and made a diving catch near the warning track against his body to end the inning.
“He played a great left field tonight,” Kotsay said. “The bases-loaded catch in the gap saved the game at that point. You can’t ask for a better play than that. A couple of good signs from the young guys tonight, and we’ll continue to look forward to that.”
In the second of the three-game series on Saturday, Houston RHP Hunter Brown (4-1, 3.43 ERA) is scheduled to square off against Oakland LHP JP Sears (0-3, 5.27 ERA).