Champs Have LeBlast With LeBlanc
Four HRs Highlight 8-3 Victory

Keuchel: Ready for stretch run
(c) Associated Press
It somehow dawned on the remaining Astro hitters that without three top stars they were going to have to step up and do it themselves. They rallied Tuesday night for 15 hits and, Wednesday afternoon, they duplicated that in an 8-3 farewell to the Emerald City, taking 2-of-3 and pushing the Mariners five games off the pace and into a virtual tie with Oakland in the A.L. West.

Dallas Keuchel tossed seven frames to even his record again at 9-9. Brad Peacock and Will Harris mopped up with a scoreless inning each.

Marwin Gonzalez and Jake Marisnick got the offense jumping with a pair of homers in the second off momentary Astro Wade LeBlanc. Gonzalez encored with a second bomb in the fourth, his first two this season as a right-handed batter. After Nick Vincent replaced LeBlanc in the fifth, Max Stassi powered a drive over the center field wall for the final three Houston runs.

Evan Gattis popped two doubles in a three-hit afternoon while the bottom half of the lineup - Stassi, Gonzalez, Marisnick and J.D. Davis chipped in two hits apiece.

With no Carlos Correa, no Jose Altuve and no George Springer, the Astros need help from the bench and the rest of the lineup for the next two weeks at least. Springer has not gone on the disabled list yet but Houston did send down prospect Kyle Tucker to AAA Fresno and recalled Marisnick who seems to heat up in Fresno and for the first week or two back in the bigs before he slumps again.

The ballclub will take Thursday off to take the flight south to Los Angeles and a World Series replay against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Justin Verlander (10-6) will pitch the 9:10 pm Central opener on Friday. While the official Dodger starter has yet to be announced, one website speculates that lefthander Alex Wood (7-5) will toe the rubber for Los Angeles.

Folks who bought tickets for this thinking they'd see a rematch of the best two teams in baseball will be a little disappointed as Houston's lineup is presently a shell of itself while injuries have also affected the Dodgers who are in a dogfight with Arizona and Colorado for the N.L. West crown.

- Bob Hulsey