Astros beat Twins behind Fiers' strong start
HOUSTON -- Mike Fiers produced a strong start and the Houston Astros parlayed aggressive base running into a pair of late insurance runs in their 5-3 win over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday at Minute Maid Park.
Fiers (6-4) surrendered a pair of solo home runs but was otherwise marvelous over seven innings, allowing four hits while recording a season-high 11 strikeouts. He did not walk a batter.
After surrendering a homer to Twins shortstop Ehire Adrianza with one out in the third, Fiers allowed just two additional hits, both singles, and faced the minimum over his last four innings. His pickoff of Adrianza at first base capped the fifth inning and helped preserve his 3-2 lead.
The Astros (62-30) tacked on a pair of runs in the seventh. Jake Marisnick chased Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson (5-8) with a leadoff walk and, after stealing second base, took third on a groundout to the left side of the infield. Twins first baseman Kennys Vargas attempted to erase Marisnick as he slid into third, but his errant toss enabled the Astros to up their lead to 4-2.
Jose Altuve added a double off Trevor Hildenberger and a steal of third base before he came home on a ball in the dirt following a strikeout of Josh Reddick. Altuve darted toward the plate as Twins catcher Chris Gimenez threw to Vargas to complete the out and beat the throw home from Vargas with a deft slide behind Gimenez.
Gibson allowed four runs on six hits and four walks with six strikeouts over six innings for the Twins (46-45), who lost five of six games against the Astros this season. Vargas blasted a 452-foot shot into the upper deck in right field for his eighth home run in the second inning.
NOTES: Slumping Twins SS Jorge Polanco was benched on Sunday and replaced by Ehire Adrianza, who homered in his first at-bat. Polanco owns a .317 OPS this month with just one multi-hit game in July. Since posting consecutive multi-hit games on June 22-23, Polanco is batting .123 with 17 strikeouts in 70 plate appearances and 18 games. ... Astros manager A.J. Hinch displayed his commitment to resting starters, giving All-Star SS Carlos Correa the day off while giving another All-Star, George Springer, a half-day by utilizing him as the designated hitter. Utility player Marwin Gonzalez started in place of Correa at shortstop. ... With a day game following a night contest, Twins 1B Joe Mauer was held out of the starting lineup. Mauer missed six games with a lower back strain before his reinstatement from the 10-day disabled list on Saturday. ... Astros RHP Charlie Morton will start the series finale against the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday.