HOUSTON (AP) — Yordan Alvarez still doesn’t feel comfortable at the plate five games after returning from a six-week absence for an oblique injury.
His recent results tell a different story.
Alvarez hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning to put Houston on top after Noah Syndergaard exited his Cleveland debut with an injury, and the Astros beat the Guardians 7-3 on Monday night.
J.P. France pitched seven strong innings for Houston, which moved within a half-game of idle AL West-leading Texas.
Alvarez has hit safely in each game since coming off the injured list and is batting .389 with a double, two home runs, two walks and four RBIs in that span.
“I don’t wanna call them lucky hits,” Alvarez said through a translator. “But … I’ve been battling at the plate and it’s one of those things where I’ve been there before. I’m going to continue working and it’s just a thing where I just need play more games, just continue working on it and try to get back to where I was before.”
Cleveland fell one game under .500 and one game behind first-place Minnesota in the weak AL Central. Earlier Monday, the Guardians traded starting pitcher Aaron Civale to Tampa Bay for a minor league outfield prospect.
Syndergaard, acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers last week, had allowed just two hits and Cleveland was up 2-0 when he walked Jose Altuve to start the sixth.
Altuve stole second base, and Jeremy Peña then hit a ball that bounced off Syndergaard’s lower right leg.
Syndergaard fielded the ball and got it to first for the out. But manager Terry Francona and a trainer were soon called to the mound to check on the right-hander. He threw a few warmup pitches before chatting with the staff and being removed from the game.
Eli Morgan (4-2) replaced him, and Kyle Tucker singled to score Altuve and cut the lead to 2-1.
Alex Bregman walked before Alvarez launched his 19th homer into the seats in right field to put the Astros on top 4-2.
“We needed it and we took advantage of it,” Alvarez said.
Syndergaard said he was OK but just feeling sore after the game.
“As far as my calf, it feels worse now than it did when it actually happened,” he said. “It just made it a little difficult to trust my back side and (Cleveland manager Terry Francona) didn’t want me going out there compensating because of it and potentially risking a different injury.”
France (7-3) yielded seven hits and two runs in seven innings for his fifth straight win.
“The main thing is he’s throwing strikes,” manager Dusty Baker said. “And he’s throwing first-ball strikes.”
The Guardians loaded the bases against Ryne Stanek with no outs in the ninth. Closer Ryan Pressly took over and struck out Myles Straw before Cleveland got within 7-3 on a sacrifice fly by Steven Kwan.
Andrés Giménez then grounded out to give Pressly his 25th save.
Syndergaard allowed two hits and one run in 5 1/3 innings to remain winless since April 30. He hadn’t pitched since June 7, when a blister on his right index finger landed him on the injured list.
“For not competing in a big league game in two months I felt like my efficiency and strike-throwing was really good,” he said. “I just look forward to getting back on the mound whenever that is.”
The Astros had runners at second and third with one out in the first, but Syndergaard retired Bregman and Alvarez to end the threat.
Syndergaard walked José Abreu with no outs in the second, but still faced the minimum in that inning thanks to a double play. He sailed through the next three innings.
Guardians: RHP Cal Quantrill (right shoulder inflammation) is scheduled to face live hitters at the end of the week and could begin a rehabilitation assignment soon after that.
Astros: RHP José Urquidy (right shoulder discomfort) made his fourth rehabilitation assignment Sunday and could come off the injured list in the next few days. Urquidy, who has been out since April 30, said Monday that he felt good and was eager to return to the rotation.
Houston LHP Framber Valdez (8-7, 3.29 ERA) opposes RHP Gavin Williams (1-2, 3.35) when the series continues Tuesday night.
For more local and national news, visit KPYN.net.