Altuve's 4 hits, 7-run frame key Astros' victory

Altuve's 4 hits, 7-run frame key Astros' victory

KANSAS CITY -- Jose Altuve homered in a four-hit night and drove in three runs, and the Astros bolted to a huge early lead for the second straight game in a 13-5 victory over the Royals on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.

The Astros, who have won a season-high seven in a row and got 12 runs in the first two innings on Friday, put up seven runs in the second inning on Saturday. Altuve, whose homer was his 13th, had two doubles among his four hits. Carlos Correa homered, his 12th, and doubled in a run. The homers came back-to-back in the second.

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Altuve and other #ASGWorthy players

"We've done a good job of getting to their starter and they've had to use their length guys for a lot of innings," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "To win the first two games in the fashion that we have sets up nicely for a chance at a sweep."

The Astros matched a season high with 16 hits and are hitting .326 during their winning streak.

"I'm really pleased with the way the guys are playing," Altuve said. "I've said it before, this is a really good team. We have a little bit of everything -- good offense, good defense. The guys are hitting the ball really good. This is the team we are and we're going to try to be consistent and see what happens the second half."

The Astros are nine games back of the American League West-leading Rangers, while the Royals fell to five games behind the AL Central-leading Indians.

Royals right-hander Chris Young pitched a scoreless first before his night fell apart. Young lasted 2 1/3 innings and gave up seven earned runs. In the first two games of the series, Royals starters have gone 3 1/3 innings and given up 19 runs (18 earned).

"He just really started struggling to control the baseball," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I thought his stuff was good, so that's a good sign. It's just, he's so big and tall and so many working parts to that delivery."

Added Young, "Just really no rhythm, no tempo. I felt good the first inning. I came back for the second, I felt like a completely different pitcher. I wish I had an explanation. The bottom line is that can't happen. I'm better than that. The team needs me to be better than that. It's frustrating."

Royals catcher Drew Butera was called upon in the ninth inning. It was the fourth career pitching appearance for Butera, who gave up one hit, but wound up with a scoreless inning.

Butera fans Gonzalez

Astros starter Mike Fiers was only marginally better and couldn't secure a win despite being handed a 9-1 lead. Fiers got through one out in the fifth before Astros manager A.J. Hinch had seen enough. Fiers gave up nine hits, three walks and three runs.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Altuve falls off his cycle: The Astros second baseman came up to bat in the sixth needing a triple for the cycle, and when Altuve shot a ball into the left-center-field gap, he was smelling it. Altuve (4-for-5) was heading into second at full speed when he slipped and wiped out on the base, settling for a double -- his fourth hit of the game. Altuve, who doubled in the first and homered in the second, couldn't help but smile as his teammates laughed in the dugout. More >

Altuve trips going for cycle

"I was in the on-deck circle and I was like, 'Go, go go!'" Correa said. "He tripped and wasn't able to get it, so obviously we had to make fun of him. It was pretty funny the way the helmet hit his feet and then he just collapsed. It was funny, but obviously he had a great game. It feels like every day he has a great game. It's fun to watch."

Alex Gordon returns: The Royals got back Gordon from a rehab assignment, and he promptly hit a home run, his fifth, and a double. Gordon was activated prior to the game. He had been on the disabled list with a broken bone near his right wrist. Gordon did leave the bases loaded in the fourth inning, and the Royals left 12 on base altogether. More >

Gordon's solo home run

"We battled back," Yost said. "We were down big early and that's tough to do, especially against a good team like that. But the offense never quit battling. They kept putting guys on, we just quite couldn't get a big hit in a couple of those situations. But we did get 12 or 13 hits and just kept fighting the whole way through."

Escape artists: The Astros kept the Royals out of range by wriggling out of bases-loaded jams in the fourth and fifth innings with minimal damage. Fiers got Gordon to ground out to end the fourth -- with a 9-6-5 double play earlier in the inning looming large -- and reliever Michael Feliz, who got the win, retired Alcides Escobar and Cheslor Cuthbert to end the fifth and strand the bases loaded.

"We pitched into and out of a lot of jams, really the whole night," Hinch said. "Most of those innings, we were able to keep them to one run with some big pitches at the end to leave a couple of runners stranded almost every inning it felt like. We danced the high-wire act, but came out of it OK."

Bullpen taxed again: For the second straight night, the Royals turned to their bullpen after a starter exited early. This time, after Young's departure, right-hander Peter Moylan came on to calm the storm. Moylan slowed the Astros down, giving up two runs in 2 2/3 innings. Chien-Ming Wang threw three innings of one-run relief before tiring in the ninth and giving up three more runs.

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Astros scored at least 13 runs in consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 8-9, 2000.

UPON FURTHER REVIEW
With runners on first and third and one out in the second inning, Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain originally was called out on the back end of a double-play grounder. The Royals challenged, and the call was overturned, which led to Cuthbert, who had been on third, scoring.

Cain's RBi fielder's choice

WHAT'S NEXT
Astros: Right-hander Doug Fister (8-3, 3.21 ERA) starts on Sunday at 1:15 p.m. CT in the series finale at Kauffman Stadium looking to win his eighth consecutive decision. He's allowed three runs or fewer in 12 consecutive starts, and the Astros have won 10 games in a row in which he's started.

Royals: Right-hander Ian Kennedy (5-6, 4.19) will take the mound in the series finale on Sunday at 1:15 p.m. CT. Kennedy gave up two solo homers over four innings in a 2-1 loss to the Mets last Tuesday.

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Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.