(Photo credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports)
Austin Hays posted his first multi-homer game this season and the fifth of his career to lead the visiting Baltimore Orioles to a 9-5 win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday.
The Orioles (95-56) maintained their 2 1/2-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East and reduced their magic number to clinch their first division title since 2014 to eight. The Rays defeated the Los Angeles Angels 6-2 earlier Tuesday.
Hays' three-run home run off Astros right-hander Hunter Brown (11-12) gave Baltimore the lead for good at 5-2 in the top of the third inning. Hays added a solo shot to left-center field with one out in the seventh off Houston reliever Jose Urquidy, with his 16th homer of the season extending the lead to 8-5.
The Orioles wasted little time teeing off on Brown, as Ryan O'Hearn clubbed a two-run homer that drove in Anthony Santander with one out in the first.
The Astros (84-68) matched the Orioles in the first courtesy of a two-run blast from Kyle Tucker, his 28th homer pushing his RBI total on the season to a career-best 108. But even with Alex Bregman adding his 24th home run with one out in the third, the Astros failed to keep pace with the slugging Orioles.
After James McCann and Gunnar Henderson produced run-scoring singles in the sixth that extended the Baltimore lead to 7-3, Astros rookie catcher Yainer Diaz socked his 23rd home run in the bottom of the frame, a two-run shot to right.
But Hays and Heston Kjerstad extended the margin back to four with homers off Urquidy in the seventh. Santander, O'Hearn and Hays all recorded multi-hit games for the Orioles.
The Astros, meanwhile, dropped one game under .500 at home this season with their 13th loss in their last 18 games at Minute Maid Park. Houston had its lead in the AL West sliced to one half-game over the Texas Rangers, who beat the Boston Red Sox 6-4 earlier Tuesday.
Brown allowed seven runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings, while Baltimore starter Kyle Gibson gave up three runs on five hits in 4 2/3 innings.
--Field Level Media