By Brian McTaggart and Rhett Bollinger
MINNEAPOLIS -- The struggles of the Astros' offense the previous two weeks suddenly seem like a distant memory.
The Astros erupted for a season-high 19 hits, including four hits by Jose Altuve and Marwin Gonzalez, and got a three-run homer from Carlos Correa to club the Twins, 15-7, in the first game of a day-night doubleheader Thursday afternoon at Target Field.
"We haven't put up a game like this in a while," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "To get that kind of contribution out of everybody, there's a lot of guys today that had good-hitting days and a lot of guys in a row. We were able to hit with two outs, hit with two strikes, we did some damage. We did a really good job of a team effort."
Kennys Vargas slugged a pair of home runs for the Twins, becoming the fourth player in club history to homer from both sides of the plate in the same game. Rookie Max Kepler also had three RBIs, including a two-run double in the third.
Astros starter Doug Fister (11-7) held the Twins to five runs and eight hits in seven-plus innings to win for the first time since July 20. Twins starter Jose Berrios (2-3) was rocked for six runs (five earned) and eight hits in two-plus innings.
"It's about as poorly as you could draw it up," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "You're looking for an outing to protect your staff as much as you can. It's not always going to happen, especially when you have a young kid out there. He's trying hard, but probably tried too hard, and centered a lot of balls."
Back-to-back doubles by George Springer and Alex Bregman in the second gave the Astros a 6-0 lead, and Houston sent 10 batters to the plate in the fifth and scored six times, capped by Correa's three-run homer to center field.
"I hit it good," Correa said. "I wasn't thinking it was going to go out because it was on a line, but it did. I'm really happy it did."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Jose, can you hit? Altuve delivered his second consecutive four-hit game, giving him eight four-hit games this season, seven of which have come on the road. He's hitting .438 on the road this season -- .503 since May 1 -- and is just seven hits shy of reaching 1,000 hits. He's reached base safely in 40 consecutive road games, becoming only the second player in franchise history to do that.
"You guys can copy and paste everything I've said to this point," Hinch said. "There's not much more to say. He's the best hitter in the league. Period." More >
Vargas homers from both sides: Vargas has been impressive since getting called up on July 4, and kept it up with a pair of homers. He hit a solo homer off Fister in the second while batting left-handed before hitting a two-run homer off lefty Tony Sipp in the eighth batting right-handed. Vargas joins Roy Smalley, Chili Davis and Ryan Doumit as the only Twins to homer from both sides in one game.
"I felt great," Vargas said through translator Carlos Font. "I've just been focused at the plate and trying to get the ball high in the air. I've been getting a lot of good contact. It's good because I can show everybody that I'm good from both sides of the plate." More >
Fister goes deep: The veteran right-hander was in line for a quality start before giving up a pair of runs in the eighth without recording an out, but he set the Astros up nicely for the second game of the doubleheader by not putting added innings on the bullpen.
"These kind of games are tough to pitch in," Fister said. "Yes, you have a lot of runs, but at the same time you're trying to get outs and you're trying to get your team back in there to keep swinging it. ... For me, I still continue to attack with the original game play -- 0-0 ballgames at all times."
Berrios roughed up again: Berrios remains one of the game's top pitching prospects, but has struggled with his command in the Majors. He's made seven career starts, but has yet to get past six innings. He was hit hard in a four-run second and lasted two-plus innings, which doesn't bode well for the bullpen in the nightcap.
"I didn't have good command of my fastball," Berrios said. "It's tough. I need to throw my fastball for a strike. And when I didn't today, they hit my other pitches."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
In their 10 games before coming to Minnesota, the Astros scored 18 runs. They've had 22 in the first two games against Twins.
ESCOBAR PITCHES THE NINTH
With the Twins down 15-6 in the ninth, shortstop Eduardo Escobar came in to pitch with a runner at first and nobody out. Escobar allowed a single to Preston Tucker, but was able to retire A.J. Reed, Jake Marisnick and Jason Castro to get out of the inning. Escobar's fastball reached as high as 90 mph and he also worked in a 67-mph curveball. He became the first Twins position player to pitch since Shane Robinson last season.
"I was just trying to throw the ball down the middle," Escobar said. "I wasn't paying attention to the gun or anything. So it was kind of surprising [to throw 90 mph]." More >
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Right-hander Chris Devenski will start the second game of the doubleheader against the Twins at 6:10 p.m. CT. He made four starts for the Astros in late April-early May and was 0-2 with a 5.03 ERA. His other 27 appearances have come in relief, where he's 0-2 with a 1.62 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. He threw 4 1/3 perfect innings Aug. 1.
Twins: Left-hander Tommy Milone (3-3, 5.23 ERA) is set to start the second game of the doubleheader. Milone was recently moved to the bullpen, making his last start on July 30. He last pitched Sunday, tossing a scoreless inning.