Altuve’s big night paces Astros in 9-6 win over Giants

Houston Astros Jose Altuve swings for the fences here he belts a fifth inning home run against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park in San Francisco on Fri Jul 30, 2021 (AP News photo)

by Marko Ukalovic

SAN FRANCISCO—It’s not everyday that the opening game of a series between the two best teams in baseball plays second fiddle. But then again, the San Francisco Giants haven’t been a buyer at MLB’s Trading Deadline in five years.

Minutes before the end of the deadline, Farhan Zaidi and his management team pulled off a trade bringing Chicago Cubs All-Star left fielder Kris Bryant to the the team by the bay for prospects outfielder Alexander Canario and right handed pitcher Caleb Kilian.

As far as the game went, Jose Altuve powered the Houston Astros with hit two home runs, including a grand slam in the sixth inning, to complete a 3-6 night with five RBI in a 9-6 victory on Friday evening at Oracle Park.

“Yeah there’s no question that was the turning point in the game,” said Giants manager Gabe Kapler on Altuve’s grand slam. “A major moment. We weren’t able to recover from it.”

The game was without Astros manager, and former Bay Area icon, Dusty Baker as he served a one-game suspension, due to the three game suspension to Brooks Raley for intentionally hitting Seattle Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford with a pitch on Monday. Bench coach Joe Espada was the interim manager. 

Kevin Gausman started for the Giants and suffered a shaky first inning. The Astros sent eight man to plate and had three singles and two walks. However Gausman settled down and struck out the final two batters as he escaped being down only 2-0 after throwing 43 pitches.

“Today was a really high pitch count in the first inning. Interesting at the end of that first inning he still had plenty of life on his (fast)ball. So he was able to get his pitch count under control and get through a few additional innings for us”, Kapler said on Gausman’s outing.

Gausman ran out of gas in the fifth inning. He gave up a lead off homer to Jose Altuve, then a single to Michael Brantley before striking out Yuli Gurriel to end his night. Gausman finished the game pitching 4 and one-third innings giving up three earned runs on six hits while striking out nine Astros and two walks.

“I feel like I made the adjustment I needed to make”, said Gausman. “It allowed me to throw my fast ball up in the zone a lot more. That’s a big pitch for me. So I had to kind of remind myself I was just getting a little to quick to home plate.”

Framber Valdez had the Giants batters stymied by his curve ball on the night. He finished the game pitching five innings giving up two earned runs on four hits while striking out six and issued three walks on 89 pitches.

Down 7-3 in the seventh inning, the Giants rallied for two runs with an RBI sacrifice fly from William Flores and an RBI single from Brandon Crawford. Kendall Graveman came in relief of Ryne Stanek to put out the fire by striking out Donovan Solano to end the threat.

Houston tacked on single runs in the eighth and ninth inning on a RBI double Carlos Correa and a solo home run by Aledyms Diaz.

Ryan Pressly pitched the ninth inning, giving up one run on on three hits.

Each team stranded 10 base runners in the game.

GAME NOTES: The Giants also brought back veteran left hand reliever Tony Watson in a trade with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Giants sent pitchers Sam Selman, Ivan Armsttrong and Jose Marte to the Angels.

Houston acquired pitcher Phil Maton and minor league catcher Yainer Diaz from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for outfielder Myles Straw.

UP NEXT: Game 2 of the Giants-Astros series is on Saturday 7/31 at 1:05pm at Oracle Park. Alex Wood faces off against Zach Greinke.

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