OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Houston Astros All-Star Kyle Tucker has been one of the American League’s best hitters against left-handers this season.
The slugger credits his success to hours of playing Wiffle Ball with older brother, Preston, when the two major leaguers were growing up.
Tucker hit three home runs in a game for the first time in his career and drove in four runs, Alex Bregman also went deep and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-4 on Friday night.
That performance raised Tucker’s average against lefties to .364 (43 for 118) with seven home runs.
“That’s a big part of just playing Wiffle Ball in the backyard with my brother being a lefty,” Tucker said. “He’s probably helped out with the comfortability for facing guys like that.”
Preston Tucker is a left-handed pitcher who is currently on the injured list with the San Diego Padres.
Kyle Tucker improved on his success against lefties from the outset on Friday. The 26-year-old right fielder hit a solo homer off A’s starter JP Sears in the first inning that extended his road hitting streak to 18 games. Tucker hit a two-run shot off Sears in the fifth inning and added a solo homer into the right field stands off Tayler Scott in the seventh for his 17th of the season.
It was the fifth multi-homer game of Tucker’s career, including playoffs.
“They were three home runs that we really needed ,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said “Especially that last one, it gave us some breathing room because they were right on our tails. Can’t get much more locked in than that.”
The win moved the Astros (55-43) 12 games over .500, matching their season high.
Houston’s Framber Valdez (8-6), who left his last start due to a left calf cramp, pitched five uneven innings and beat Oakland for the third time this season. The 29-year-old left-hander allowed six hits and four runs with four strikeouts and two walks, helping the Astros win their ninth straight against Oakland in a streak that dated to last season.
Ryan Pressly, the fifth Astros reliever used by Baker who was pitching in his third straight game, recorded the final three outs for his 23rd save this season and the 100th of his career.
“I never thought I’d get here to be honest with you, so for me it is special,” Pressly said.
Tony Kemp had two hits, was hit by a pitch and scored twice for the MLB-worst A’s (27-73).
Oakland has lost 10 of 12 overall.
The only pitcher to remain in Oakland’s rotation all season, Sears allowed eight hits and five runs in 5 2/3 innings. Sears is winless since June 11.
“Other than Kyle Tucker, I thought it was great,” A”s manager Mark Kotsay said. “Overall, he took over the game tonight. JP still gave us a chance to win the game when he walked off the mound.”
Bregman homered after an exhausting 11-pitch at-bat against Sears (1-7) in the first inning.
Trailing 3-0, the A’s chipped away. Jordan Diaz had an RBI single in the third and then Oakland scored three more in the fifth to chase Valdez.
Diaz drew a bases-loaded walk, Aledmys Díaz had a sacrifice fly, and Zack Gelof scored on a groundout to cut Houston’s lead to 5-4.
The A’s got the tying run on base with no outs in the eighth following consecutive walks by Hector Neris, but Neris got Cody Thomas to pop out before Seth Brown grounded into a double play.
“When you walk guys like that late in the game, nobody out, usually one of them score or both,” Baker said. “That was huge for us to get out of that inning.”
Astros: 2B Jose Altuve (oblique) took infield and did some hitting before the game for the third time since his injury. Baker said the next move in Altuve’s rehab would be decided after the game. … OF Yordan Alvarez is on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Sugar Land and could rejoin the team when it begins a homestand in Houston on Monday.
Athletics: RF Brent Rooker was originally in the lineup, but was a late scratch due to illness. Seth Brown started in his absence. … Kemp had his left hand examined after getting hit by a pitch, but remained in the game.
Astros RHP Cristian Javier (7-1, 4.39 ERA) faces the A’s on Saturday and is looking for his first victory since June 3. Javier is winless and hasn’t made it past the sixth inning over his previous six starts. Oakland RHP Paul Blackburn (1-2, 5.48) is winless in six career games (five starts) against Houston.
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