The Astros were looking to make amends Friday night after dropping three of four to the Blue Jays last week, and it was their youth that got the job done.
Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove tossed seven strong innings and outfielder Teoscar Hernandez homered in his big league debut to lead Houston to a 5-3 victory over Toronto in the series opener at Rogers Centre. American League batting leader Jose Altuve added a double and a pair of RBIs in the victory.
Musgrove allowed two runs while scattering six hits and walking one against the team that originally drafted him back in 2011. The 23-year-old has now allowed just three earned runs over 18 1/3 innings since he was promoted from the Minor Leagues at the beginning of August.
"It's awesome," Musgrove said about earning his first win against the team that drafted him. "By no means am I trying to do anything against them, I'm just trying to do my job and get us back in the race here. It was definitely nice for me to do it here."
Lefty Francisco Liriano took the loss for Toronto after he surrendered five runs on eight hits and two walks over 5 2/3 innings. He started off the game with a three-up, three-down first inning but then appeared to leave a lot of hanging sliders up in the zone throughout the game. Edwin Encarnacion reached the 300-homer career milestone with a solo shot in the ninth inning.
"I thought it was kind of a mixed bag," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "I thought he threw better than the line would indicate. He had some chopped balls … but overall, I didn't think it was that bad of an outing. There were a lot of good things we liked. He has a live ball, he's going to get some ground balls. They just squared a couple of balls up that were costly."
With the loss, Toronto allowed the Orioles to temporarily pull even with them for first place in the American League East, pending the result of Baltimore's game in San Francisco late Friday night. The Astros remained two games back of Boston for the second AL Wild Card spot after the Red Sox also won on Friday night.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Teoscar time: Making his Major League debut, Hernandez recorded his first career hit with a home run in the top of the sixth inning against Liriano, giving the Astros a 5-2 lead. According to Statcast™, Hernandez's solo blast traveled a projected 374 feet and left the bat at 100 mph. Hernandez drew a walk in the top of the third during his first official plate appearance and finished his outing 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
"It means a lot to me," Hernandez said about his first Major League home run. "Liriano's one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues, and to get my first hit and my first home run against him is so exciting for me."
Signs of life from Saunders:Michael Saunders entered this game hitting .153 (11-for-72) since the All-Star break, but he made some noise early. The veteran outfielder led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a home run to left-center field. According to Statcast™, Saunders' 20th of the year was projected to travel 391 feet and left his bat at 95 mph. This also marked the first time in Saunders' career he reached the 20-homer plateau after previously reaching 19 in 2012.
Inching closer: Altuve moved within five hits of 1,000 for his career with a tie-breaking, two-run double in the top of the fifth inning off Liriano. The Astros' second baseman remains on pace to become the quickest player in franchise history to reach the 1,000-hit plateau. The double also extended Altuve's road on-base streak to 42 consecutive games.
"Altuve finds his way, on a night where he was sort of off, to be in the middle of a big hit." Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.
No. 300: Encarnacion became the second Blue Jays player this month to pick up career home run No. 300 when he hit a solo shot in the bottom of the ninth inning. Teammate Jose Bautista joined the club last week in Houston, and this time it was Encarnacion's turn to take center stage. Encarnacion became the 11th active player in the Major Leagues to reach the 300-homer plateau and the 11th Dominican-born player.
"I'm really proud to be on that list with all of those guys," Encarnacion said through an interpreter after the game. "I never thought I was going to get there, but I'm really glad and really happy." More >
QUOTABLE "I've been trying to look for answers. I try to go out there and do my job, but it has happened to me a lot this year. I'm looking for answers, but it just happens like that." -- Liriano, on consistently falling behind hitters for most of the game
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS The Blue Jays are the fifth team with three players who have 20 or more home runs this season. Baltimore, Detroit, Seattle and Colorado are the others.
WHAT'S NEXT Astros:Collin McHugh gets the ball for the Astros on Saturday, searching for his first win since July 23. The 29-year-old right-hander took the loss against the Blue Jays on Aug. 3 in Houston, allowing three runs over six innings. First pitch is set for 12:07 p.m. CT.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Aaron Sanchez will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their three-game series against the Astros on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre, with first pitch scheduled for 1:07 p.m. ET. Sanchez allowed four runs over six innings during his last start against the Royals.