HOUSTON (AP) — Kyle Tucker gave Houston Astros fans a nice peak into the future a few days before the World Series champions formally begin their title defense.
The prized prospect hit a grand slam in his first-ever at-bat at Minute Maid Park to lift Houston over the Milwaukee Brewers 5-2 in an exhibition game Monday night.
“It was awesome. The atmosphere from the first inning or even yesterday coming to the field was awesome,” Tucker said. “I was super pumped. To finally to get to play on this field was awesome. It’s a dream ever since you were a little kid. It was a great night.”
Tucker, the fifth overall pick in the 2015 draft, went deep in the seventh inning after replacing Josh Reddick in left field. It was Tucker’s fifth homer of the spring and gives him 21 RBIs and a .439 average.
“He’s had a nice spring and a nice impression,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “I’m not sure I’d be impressed more or any less whether he punches out tomorrow or hits another homer. The long view of him is he looks like he’s going to be a really good player. His time will come.”
Tucker is already slated to join one of the Astros’ minor league affiliates before opening day Thursday. He split last season between Class A Buies Creek and Double-A Corpus Christi.
Reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve had two hits, and Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr. allowed his first runs since March 11 by giving up two with three hits. He also struck out three in three innings.
McCullers finished spring training 3-0 with 24 strikeouts in 21 innings.
“I was able to come into spring healthy, which allowed me to make a full solid five outings down there and got my pitch count up close to 90 my last time out in Florida,” McCullers said. “Today I was able to come out and throw three (innings) of 50 pitches. I feel good. I’m on normal rest but because I threw less pitches I’m going to be a little more fresh.”
McCullers will get his first regular season start on Saturday against the Rangers in Arlington.
Christian Yelich drove in two runs for Milwaukee. The outfielder was acquired this offseason from the Marlins and leads the Brewers with 12 RBIs heading into the final game before opening day.
Brewers starter Brent Suter bounced back from recent struggles with five innings of one-run ball. He stuck out seven and had no walks, a big turnaround after allowing 10 runs in his previous 8 2/3 innings.
“I was very pleased, I thought it was the perfect tuneup,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Obviously it’s a very good lineup, and he did a really nice job for five innings.”
Suter in his last two games has struck out 14 batters in 9 2/3 innings. Prior to that, Suter had just 12 punch outs in 14 innings.
“I think I did a better job of doing it earlier,” Suter said about making quality two-strike pitches. “In my last outing, I was fighting a little bit, letting them get back in the count and then maybe making a pitch. Today it felt like I was putting them away a little earlier in the count. That was a good sign. Limit my pitch count. I was a little bit more efficient today.”
GURRIEL MAKING PROGRESS
Less than a month after having the hook of the hamate bone removed from his left hand, Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel is close to returning.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Gurriel hit again Monday morning, and the team hopes to get him into game competition at minor league spring training in the next day or two.
“Right now he’s trending in a good direction that he’s pain free,” Hinch said. “He’s taking good swings. He’s facing live competition in terms of the high-velocity machine. So far so good.”
The team will decide by opening day whether to put Gurriel on the disabled list or have him join the team. Once with the team, Gurriel will begin serving his five-game suspension handed down by Major League Baseball during the World Series last year. The suspension was for an inappropriate gesture directed at former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish.
Brewers: RHP Zach Davies (2-0, 2.38 ERA) starts against Houston on Tuesday in his final tuneup before the regular season. In his last start, Davies gave up no runs in five innings against Kansas City.
Astros: RHP Charlie Morton (1-1, 6.92 ERA) will try to bounce back in his final start of the preseason Tuesday. Last time out, Morton gave up nine runs and 11 hits against Miami on Thursday.