Astros clobber Twins, grow lead in AL West

Astros clobber Twins, grow lead in AL West

HOUSTON -- George Springer's return to the lineup took a back seat to the bat of Hank Conger.

Conger belted a fourth-inning grand slam, and Colby Rasmus had a two-run blast to back 7 2/3 scoreless innings from starting pitcher Collin McHugh and lead the Astros to an 8-0 win over the Twins in the series opener Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Blastoff: 10th Astro reaches 10-homer mark

Club record set on Conger's grand slam; Houston 1 shy of MLB record

Blastoff: 10th Astro reaches 10-homer mark

HOUSTON -- The Astros' co-leader in home runs hit eighth Friday night, though infielder Luis Valbuena is in a logjam at first base and is unsure if he'll see his name in the lineup each day.

Pinch-hitting for Valbuena in the sixth inning of Friday's 8-0 win was Chris Carter, another competitor for first-base playing time, who has 18 homers himself. Batting in the nine-hole was catcher Hank Conger, whose fourth-inning grand slam gave him 10 home runs on the year, setting a franchise record as he became the 10th Astro to reach double-digit home runs this season.

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Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Springer makes immediate impact in return

Outfielder back from wrist injury; won't hesitate on field

Springer makes immediate impact in return

HOUSTON -- More than two months after he fractured his right wrist when he was hit by a pitch, Astros outfielder George Springer returned to the lineup for Friday's series opener against the Twins at Minute Maid Park, batting first and playing left field in manager A.J. Hinch's lineup.

Springer jump-started the Astros to an 8-0 victory, leading off the bottom of the first inning with a single to right field off Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey. Springer moved to third when Jose Altuve followed with a hit-and-run single, and scored the opening run of the game on Carlos Correa's grounder to shortstop. Springer finished 1-for-4 with two strikeouts.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros sending 7 affiliates to postseason

Astros sending 7 affiliates to postseason

HOUSTON -- In a season marked by enshrining No. 7 Craig Biggio into the Hall of Fame, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow wasn't exactly heaping more praise on the franchise's most prized player Thursday when he tweeted 12 "7" emojis in the shape of the No. 7 -- a tribute to the organization's seven Minor League affiliates who have clinched postseason berths.

Luhnow didn't plan the tweet beforehand -- how could he have adequately predicted this entire run, from Minor League to Major League success, to begin with -- but when the Tri-City Valley Cats won in extra innings, he thought of the not so subtle way to show his excitement.

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Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McCullers eyes chance at revenge vs. Twins

McCullers eyes chance at revenge vs. Twins

Six days after facing one another in Minnesota, Astros rookie Lance McCullers squares off against Twins righty Ervin Santana on Saturday in the second matchup of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.

Santana got the best of McCullers on Sunday and turned in his finest start of the season, setting a season high for Twins starters with 10 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings to snap a six-start winless streak in Minnesota's 7-5 win.

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Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Shattuck to be inducted into Media Wall of Honor

Longtime Houston Chronicle writer Harry Shattuck will be inducted into the Houston Baseball Media Wall of Honor in a pregame ceremony on Sept. 23.

Shattuck worked for the Chronicle for parts of four decades from 1970-2009. He began covering the Astros in 1970 and served as the Chronicle's beat writer from 1972-1985 before serving as the Chronicle's national baseball writer from 1985-88. He also served as the assistant sports editor (1989-93) and the travel editor (1993-09) before his retirement.

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Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Neshek laments error, vows to put it in past

Neshek laments error, vows to put it in past

HOUSTON -- Pat Neshek hadn't made an error in his nine-year Major League career when he delivered a 1-0 pitch to Jesus Sucre in the bottom of the eighth inning of a tie ballgame on Wednesday night.

Sucre laid down a sacrifice bunt just up the first-base line, and Neshek fielded and threw wildly to Jose Altuve covering at first, putting runners at first and second with nobody out and setting the stage for a bullpen collapse in the Mariners' 8-3 win.

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Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Feldman hoping to miss only one start

Feldman hoping to miss only one start

HOUSTON -- Astros starting pitcher Scott Feldman hopes to miss only one start after he was forced to leave Tuesday's game against the Mariners with right shoulder discomfort. Feldman, who underwent an MRI on Wednesday and got an injection into the shoulder to calm the inflammation, will rest for two or three days before picking up a baseball.

Feldman said the MRI showed some irritation and inflammation but no structural damage, which was perhaps the best news possible. Feldman is 5-5 with a 3.90 ERA in 18 starts, but was terrific in August, posting a 1.33 ERA in four starts (27 innings).

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros fall to M's, take rare home-series loss

Astros fall to M's, take rare home-series loss

HOUSTON -- The Mariners scored a pair of unearned runs in the eighth inning, taking advantage of a throwing error by reliever Pat Neshek to break a tie, and then added three more runs in the ninth on a Logan Morrison homer to beat the Astros, 8-3, on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.

Shawn O'Malley, making his Mariners debut, went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, including an RBI single in the eighth inning that broke a 3-3 tie. He scored Seattle's fifth run on a fielder's choice off the bat of pinch-hitter Seth Smith later in the inning. Morrison slammed a three-run homer in the ninth off Josh Fields for his second homer in as many nights.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Keuchel wins 3rd AL Pitcher of Month this year

Keuchel wins 3rd AL Pitcher of Month this year

HOUSTON -- In what's become ritual, Astros ace Dallas Keuchel sat before reporters before Wednesday's game an hour removed from winning his third American League Pitcher of the Month honor, even though he sported the third-lowest August ERA of the Astros' surging rotation.

"I was looking at some of the August stats from some of the other guys, [Scott Feldman], [Collin McHugh], [Mike Fiers], and they were just as good, if not better, than me," Keuchel, who finished the month at 4-1 with a 1.94 ERA said. "I was very surprised."

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Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Martes rebounds in second Double-A start

Astros No. 7 prospect strikes out nine in six scoreless frames for Hooks

Martes rebounds in second Double-A start

It has been quite the full-season debut for Francis Martes.

The Astros' No. 7 prospect dominated in his second Double-A start on Wednesday, striking out nine batters in six scoreless innings as Corpus Christi defeated Frisco, 5-0. He scattered five hits and three walks in the outing, throwing 57 of 99 pitches for strikes.

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Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tucker called up, inserted into Astros' lineup

Tucker called up, inserted into Astros' lineup

HOUSTON -- Back from a 10-day stint at Triple-A Fresno, Preston Tucker joined the Astros on Wednesday as the club's fourth September callup, playing left field and batting seventh in his first game back in Houston.

Tucker went 1-for-4 with an RBI single in the Astros' 8-3 loss to the Mariners.

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Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Feldman exits with right shoulder discomfort

Pitcher to have MRI exam on Wednesday

Feldman exits with right shoulder discomfort

HOUSTON -- Astros starter Scott Feldman is scheduled for an MRI exam on his right shoulder on Wednesday after he exited Tuesday's start against the Mariners -- an eventual 7-5 Astros loss -- with discomfort after just 2 2/3 innings.

Feldman, who battled control issues throughout his short stint, said the pain got worse gradually throughout his outing, and he finally summoned head trainer Nate Lucero and manager A.J. Hinch to the mound after delivering his 85th pitch.

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Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

After Feldman exits, Astros rally but fall short

After Feldman exits, Astros rally but fall short

HOUSTON -- Logan Morrison socked a two-run pinch-hit home run with two outs in the eighth inning off reliever Pat Neshek -- the third homer of the game for Seattle -- to break a tie and lead the Mariners to a 7-5 win over the Astros on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.

"That was a lot of fun, especially here with the success they've had against us. Kind of exorcise the demons a little bit," said Morrison, whose Mariners had been outscored 57-26 while losing seven of eight previous games in Houston this season.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros' Castro pleased with quad's progress

Astros' Castro pleased with quad's progress

HOUSTON -- Three days after going on the disabled list with a strained right quad, Astros catcher Jason Castro said he was pleasantly surprised at his progress and began rehab treatments on the injury Tuesday.

Castro said his first few days have been spent getting the swelling down and keeping his muscles activated to set the base for the treatments -- including light exercises, light stretching and some range-of-motion work. He strained his quad in Saturday's 4-1 victory against Minnesota when he rounded first base on a double.

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Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Thatcher's addition to 'pen key with Sipp ailing

Thatcher's addition to 'pen key with Sipp ailing

HOUSTON -- Home in Kokomo, Ind., after he was designated for assignment on July 21, Joe Thatcher fielded calls from a few Major League teams who wanted the ninth-year southpaw's services in their bullpen.

Using the unplanned summer at home to unwind and regroup, Thatcher instead accepted his assignment to the Astros' Triple-A club in Fresno, Calif.

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Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Reed leading eight Astros slated for AFL

Reed leading eight Astros slated for AFL

HOUSTON -- A.J. Reed will be playing baseball in October, but not with the Astros.

Reed, who leads the Minor Leagues in home runs (33), RBIs (119), runs (109) and OPS (1.067), joins outfielder Derek Fisher and third baseman J.D. Davis to headline the group of players the Astros will send to the Arizona Fall League. Reed is the Astros' fifth-ranked prospect, Fisher is eighth and Davis is 12th.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Keuchel rides Astros' homers to 16th win

Keuchel rides Astros' homers to 16th win

HOUSTON -- There is nothing more automatic in baseball these days than Dallas Keuchel winning at Minute Maid Park. The Astros' All-Star left-hander remained unbeaten at home and became the American League's first 16-game winner by throwing seven strong innings and benefiting from three home runs to beat the Mariners, 8-3, on Monday night.

Keuchel (16-6) held the Mariners to six hits and one run -- a second-inning homer by Mark Trumbo -- to improve to 12-0 at Minute Maid Park this season. He also extended his club record by throwing at least six innings in his 38th consecutive start while throwing a season-high 121 pitches.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

'Amazing' Altuve has August to remember

'Amazing' Altuve has August to remember

HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve had exited from the Astros' clubhouse following Monday's 8-3 win over the Mariners before he had a chance to talk to the media, which gave his teammates a chance to tell reporters how incredible he's been playing lately.

Altuve, the reigning Major League batting champion, capped off his terrific August by going 3-for-5 to extend his career-long on-base streak to 28 games, meaning he reached base in every game in the month. He finished August with 45 hits, which ties the club record for hits in the month (Jesus Alou, 1970).

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Keuchel's glove work key to earning 16th win

Keuchel's glove work key to earning 16th win

HOUSTON -- The remains of Franklin Gutierrez's shattered bat flung straight in the air, coming dangerously close to landing on Dallas Keuchel, who was too busy navigating the bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fourth inning of a tie game to notice where the wood would land.

"If it stuck me in the neck, it was going to stick me in the neck," Keuchel said. "I was going to try to get the out."

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Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Correa returns to Astros' lineup with homer

Correa returns to Astros' lineup with homer

HOUSTON -- After missing four consecutive games with a sore left hamstring, shortstop Carlos Correa returned to the Astros' starting lineup on Monday, batting in his usual three-hole for the series opener against the Mariners in Houston's 8-3 win.

After singling in the first and striking out in the third, Correa belted his 16th homer of the season, a two-run shot to left, for a 5-1 Astros lead in the fifth inning. His 16 homers are the second-most by a big league shortstop younger than 21 (Alex Rodriguez hit 26 before his 21st birthday).

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Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros' roster expansion begins with trio

Astros' roster expansion begins with trio

HOUSTON -- The Astros made their first of what should be a few waves of roster moves after their 8-3 win over the Mariners on Monday night in advance of Tuesday's date to expand the rosters by calling up right-handed pitcher Josh Fields, infielder Jonathan Villar and selecting left-hander Joe Thatcher to the Major League roster.

Villar and Thatcher will join the club Tuesday from Triple-A Fresno, while Fields will be recalled from Double-A Corpus Christi. A corresponding roster move will be made Tuesday to make room for Thatcher on the 40-man roster.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros owner Crane gives Fiers no-no gifts

Astros owner Crane gives Fiers no-no gifts

HOUSTON -- Astros owner Jim Crane presented pitcher Mike Fiers with a Breitling watch and a shadow box commemorating his Aug. 21 no-hitter prior to Monday's game against the Mariners at Minute Maid Park.

The shadow box included the lineup card that was posted in the dugout, a ticket stub from the game, the ball thrown for the final out and a pair of pictures of Fiers celebrating the final out of Houston's first no-hitter in 11 years.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros put up fight despite missing key bats

Astros put up fight despite missing key bats

MINNEAPOLIS -- Down seven runs to the Twins in the ninth inning, it would have been easy for the Astros to fold. They hadn't scored all day and it was the last game of a six-day, seven-game road trip. They didn't.

Instead, the Astros battled in the ninth inning for five runs. Though Houston's rally fell short, it made a 7-5 loss seem a lot closer than it actually was.

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Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Astros' trio on MLB Pipeline's Prospect Team of the Week

Astros prospect homers thrice, on list for record-tying fourth time in 2015

Astros' trio on MLB Pipeline's Prospect Team of the Week

MLBPipeline.com's Prospect Team of the Week honors the best performances from the previous seven days. Any player currently on an organization Top 30 Prospects list on our Prospect Watch is eligible, including big leaguers.

A.J. Reed is at it again. The Astros first-base prospect homered three more times and drove in seven more runs last week at Double-A Corpus Christi, earning Prospect Team of the Week honors for the fourth time in 2015. That ties Reed with Kyle Schwarber for the most recognition this year.

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Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros don't go quietly in finale with Twins

Astros don't go quietly in finale with Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- After struggling throughout August, Ervin Santana returned to form to throw seven scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts and the Twins got home runs from Eduardo Nunez and Miguel Sano to earn a 7-5 win over the Astros on Sunday afternoon at Target Field.

Santana's gem and the 7-0 lead the homers gave the Twins through eight innings helped Minnesota survive Houston's five-run ninth. With their eighth win in their last 10 games, the Twins kept pace with the Rangers, who also won Sunday to maintain their 1 1/2-game lead over Minnesota for the second American League Wild Card slot.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fiers benefits from extra rest in no-no follow-up

Right-hander allows three hits over six-plus in win over Twins

Fiers benefits from extra rest in no-no follow-up

MINNEAPOLIS -- Mike Fiers tried out his best Johnny Vander Meer impression on Saturday, but it only lasted three innings.

Fiers, who tossed a no-hitter in his last start against the Dodgers on Aug. 21, held the Twins hitless until the fourth, when Joe Mauer ended the right-hander's attempt to become the second pitcher to throw two consecutive no-hitters during Saturday's 4-1 win over the Twins.

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Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros ride 3-run 4th in Fiers' strong encore

Astros ride 3-run 4th in Fiers' strong encore

MINNEAPOLIS -- Mike Fiers couldn't replicate the no-hitter from his previous outing, but tossed six-plus innings of three-hit ball to lead the Astros to a 4-1 win over the Twins on Saturday night at Target Field.

Fiers, who threw a 134-pitch no-hitter against the Dodgers on Aug. 21, was given extra rest and looked sharp against Minnesota. The right-hander allowed one run on three hits and three walks to improve to 2-0 with 2.25 ERA in five appearances with Houston since being traded from Milwaukee. But he left after taking a comebacker from Eddie Rosario off his hand in the seventh after hitting Trevor Plouffe with a pitch -- a non-factor in his exit, he said, as he was unhurt and already at 98 pitches.

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Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.