PITTSBURGH (AP) — Yordan Alvarez had three hits and boosted his RBI total to a major-league-leading 16 by driving in two runs in the Houston Astros’ 8-2 win over Pittsburgh on Monday night.
Kyle Tucker added two hits and drove in three runs for the Astros. Maruicio Dubón singled three times to extend his hitting streak to a career-best six games as the reigning World Series champions sent the fast-starting Pirates to the second loss in their last seven games.
Framber Valdez (1-1) kept the Pirates in check for seven innings, allowing two runs on three hits with five walks and five strikeouts as Houston won consecutive games for the second time this season.
Ji Man Choi hit his first home run for Pittsburgh. Rodolfo Castro added an RBI single in his first start at shortstop while filling in for injured Oneil Cruz, who is out four months after undegoing surgery to repair a fractured ankle suffered in a loss to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.
Roansy Contreras (1-1) struggled with his command while getting pushed around by the Astros. Contreras gave up seven runs — tied for a career-worst — on nine hits with four walks and three strikeouts before being pulled after just 3 1/3 innings.
The Astros are off to a somewhat sluggish start and entered the game with 102 strikeouts, tied with San Francisco for most in the majors. Houston only fanned seven times against Contreras and three relievers while drawing eight walks.
Tucker, ejected late in a victory over Minnesota on Sunday for arguing a baserunner interference call, gave Houston the lead in the first with a sharp single to left. Alvarez laced a two-run single in the second and Tucker effectively chased Contreras with a two-run single to right in the fourth that made it 7-1.
That was more than enough for Valdez. He had little trouble with a Pittsburgh lineup being forced to adjust on the fly without Cruz, the 6-foot-7 leadoff hitter who is an integral part of a young foundation the Pirates are trying to build around.
Castro will get the first crack at replacing Cruz. He made a couple of routine plays but also committed an error in the fourth inning. Pittsburgh called up utility player Mark Mathias from Triple-A Indianapolis and started him at second base.
Mathias, who previously played for Milwaukee and Texas before being acquired in March, went hitless in three at-bats in his Pittsburgh debut.
Pittsburgh third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes replaced Cruz atop the Pirates lineup and went 0 for 4.
Astros: Jose Altuve (fractured right thumb) rejoined his teammates on the road as he recovers from surgery after getting injured during the World Baseball Classic last month. Altuve, wearing a cast over his injured thumb, is out until at least late May.
The series continues on Tuesday when Houston’s Cristian Javier (1-0, 3.27 ERA) faces Pittsburgh’s Mitch Keller (1-0, 3.86).