The Sports Xchange

By MoiseKapenda Bower, The Sports Xchange

Two-run eighth sends Astros past Jays

HOUSTON -- With the roster ravaged by injuries, the Houston Astros must continue to hope for nights like Friday when an unlikely contributor steps in and fills a void with an unexpected jolt of productivity.

Houston journeyman shortstop Gregorio Petit hit his first career homer as the Astros rallied for two eighth-inning runs against the Toronto bullpen in a 3-1 victory at Minute Maid Park.

Petit crushed the first pitch in the eighth inning into the seats in left field, turning on a fastball by Aaron Loup (3-3) to provide the Astros (45-65) their first lead of the game. Houston second baseman Jose Altuve followed with a double into the left-center field gap and then stole third before scoring on sacrifice fly from right fielder Robbie Grossman.

"I threw two pitches and the next thing you know I give up a home run and a double," Loup said. "I guess it just wasn't my day today."

Altuve delivering the insurance run with an extra-base hit and his 43rd stolen base wasn't aberrant. Petit smashing a home run after 384 plate appearances wasn't routine.

"I've been waiting for this moment for a long time," Petit said. "I've been battling a lot. I've been showing my game a lot. I've just been waiting for my opportunity.

"I'm going to keep enjoying this. I'm going to keep living this dream. I'm not going to wake up and I won't."

The Astros' rally offered a stark contrast to their effort against Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ, who pitched brilliantly in allowing one run, three hits and two walks with six strikeouts. He ran his pitch count to 105, well below his season-high of 124 against the Chicago White Sox on June 26, when left fielder L.J. Hoes was retired on a flyout to end the seventh.

Right-hander Jose Veras (1-0) picked up his first win with the Astros by retiring the final two batters in the eighth. Closer Chad Qualls notched his 12th save by striking out center fielder Colby Rasmus and first baseman Danny Valencia after designated hitter Nolan Reimold reached on an infield single with one out in the ninth inning.

Qualls had suffered two losses during the 10-game homestand.

Toronto (60-51) had its six-game winning streak snapped.

"I thought Happ was great, but the big turning point in the game was in the second inning with second and third and no outs and we couldn't get anything across," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "That's something we've been doing lately."

Seeking to snap his six-game skid, Astros right-hander Collin McHugh found himself in a 1-0 hole four batters into his start.

After corner outfielders Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista singled and doubled in succession, Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro followed with a sacrifice fly to center that scored Cabrera to give Toronto to a 1-0 lead.

McHugh found more trouble in the second, but after Rasmus singled and Valencia doubled, McHugh did not surrender another hit until Navarro singled with one out in the sixth inning. He stranded three baserunners during that stretch and worked around a Petit error that enabled Blue Jays second baseman Ryan Goins to reach leading off the fifth.

"It's huge," McHugh said of escaping the second inning. "The last couple of outings, the first couple of innings really kind of did me in. So to be able to come back and make a couple of big pitches when you need to is huge. I think it's big for the team to know that it's just a one-run game and you're right in it."

When Happ retired the first 11 batters he faced, his 1-0 lead appeared sufficient. But Astros designated hitter Chris Carter had the first hit off Happ with an infield single in the fourth inning, the first of three consecutive batters to reach base as the Astros rallied to even the score.

First baseman Jesus Guzman was the most critical of that threesome, driving home Carter with a flare single to center that tied the score at 1.

NOTES: The Astros selected the contract of RHP Mike Foltynewicz from Triple-A Oklahoma, where he went 7-7 with a 5.08 ERA in 21 appearances (18 starts). Foltynewicz is listed by as the Astros' fourth-best prospect and features a fastball with a velocity that reaches triple digits. He will work primarily in middle relief. ... Blue Jays INF Brett Lawrie is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment at high-Class A Dunedin. Lawrie, batting .244/.299/.419 with 12 home runs and 38 RBIs, was placed on the 15-day disabled list on June 23 with a fractured right index finger. ... Acquired Thursday in a six-player trade with the Miami Marlins, CF Jake Marisnick made his debut with the Astros and batted seventh. Marisnick played 54 games in two seasons (2013-14) with the Marlins. He was with Triple-A New Orleans at the time of the trade.