By Rhett Bollinger and Brian McTaggart
HOUSTON -- With the roar of a Sunday crowd serving as a deafening soundtrack, shortstop Jed Lowrie thrust his right hand high into the air as he neared first base after coming through with one of the Astros' biggest hits of the season.
Lowrie's seventh-inning grand slam off Twins reliever Trevor May sent Minute Maid Park into a frenzy and allowed starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel to remain unbeaten at home in the Astros' 8-5 win in the series finale.
"That was a pretty exciting dugout during that whole inning, but specifically when you get a grand slam like that, that was an energized a dugout as you can imagine," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "A big inning for us. We had runners on base all day, but that by far was the biggest hit I think this team needed to get that series win."
Keuchel (17-6) became the American League's first 17-game winner and improved to 13-0 with a 1.49 ERA at home this season, winning his club-record 14th consecutive decision at Minute Maid Park dating back to 2014. In eight innings of work, he allowed solo homers to Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar and Aaron Hicks and struck out 12.
Twins starter Tyler Duffey held the Astros to two runs in 6 2/3 innings. The Astros trailed, 2-0, in the seventh when Jose Altuve beat out a two-out infield hit with the bases loaded to score a run, setting the stage for Lowrie's dramatic blast that put Houston ahead, 5-2.
"A reliever's job is to pick up the guy before you, and Duffey pitched his butt off, so it's my job to get him out of trouble there at the end," May said. "It was just one guy I had to get out, and I faced four and didn't get any out. So in short, I blew it and I'm looking forward to another chance to get out there."
The first-place Astros exit their homestand with a three-game lead over the second-place Rangers in the American League West, and a 5 1/2-game edge over the third-place Angels. The Twins trail the Rangers by 1 1/2 games for the second AL Wild Card spot.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Grand slammed: Lowrie blew the roof off Minute Maid Park when he launched a game-changing grand slam to right field -- off the bat at 97 mph, according to Statcast™. It was the Astros' fourth grand slam this season -- all of which have come since Aug. 1 -- and first by a non-catcher. More >
"We weren't really hitting the ball very hard, and then when we got the opportunity, I think everybody took a big sigh of relief and had a little fun," Lowrie said.
Close play at third spoils rally: The Twins had two runners on with nobody out in the seventh, and Escobar laid down a sacrifice bunt but Luis Valbuena threw to third to get Trevor Plouffe on a close play. Plouffe was adamant the throw pulled Lowrie off the bag at third, but Twins manager Paul Molitor didn't ask for a challenge. It ended up being a big play, as Keuchel got out of the inning without allowing a run.
"The throw definitely beat me, but I think he was off third base by a couple of inches," Plouffe said. "Paul [Schrieber] was there and he's a great umpire, but I don't think he saw it. And according to everyone who looked at the replay, there was no real clear angle, so it was a tough play for us."
Home sweet home: Keuchel set a club record by winning his 14th consecutive decision at home, breaking the record of 13 set by Danny Darwin (1989-90). Keuchel's 13 wins in home decisions without a loss in a single season also ties a Major League record, becoming one of only four pitchers to do that since 1914. More >
"I try to do my job every fifth day out, whether that's at home or on the road," he said. "I'll take them as they come. But it's definitely been nice to pitch at home with the support we've had this year, kind of the turnaround we've made. I'll take it, but I like to pitch well on the road as well."
Houston native sharp: Duffey, who grew up in Houston and attended Rice University, had a strong outing in front of roughly 30 friends and family members but was stuck with a no-decision. The right-hander struck out eight and exited with the Twins up, 2-0, with two runners on in the seventh. But May came in and gave up five runs, including two charged to Duffey. More >
"Once you get out there on the field, it's game time, so you're just trying to stay focused and get people out," Duffey said. "It was fun. To pitch at home, that could never happen again. It just lined up. So it's just one of those things that was fun today."
"This was definitely a nice win to end the homestand and kick-start on a key 10-game division road trip. We're going to see what we're made of here in the next 10 days, and hopefully we come out above .500." -- Keuchel, on the Astros' upcoming series against the Athletics, Angels and Rangers
"I was happy for him. We talked about it before the game, coming into your hometown. You could hear people cheering for him every time he left the field. He was pretty much in control for the time he was out there. We know when he has his good curveball he's tough on lefties and righties." -- Molitor on Duffey
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Altuve leads the AL with 18 three-hit games.
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: The Twins head to Kansas City for a three-game series against the first-place Royals that starts Monday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Left-hander Tommy Milone starts the series opener and is coming off a strong start, as he held the White Sox scoreless over seven innings on Wednesday.
Astros: The Astros begin a 10-game road trip with a three-game series at the A's at 3:05 p.m. CT Monday when Mike Fiers (7-9, 3.54 ERA) takes the mound. Fiers has a 0.67 ERA in his four starts as an Astro, including the franchise's 11th no-hitter -- and first in Minute Maid Park history -- on Aug. 21 against the Dodgers.