SAN FRANCISCO – The Houston Astros and San Francisco Giants both have 64 wins, tied for most in the majors.
For two teams planning to play deep into October, their series opener Friday night provided a summer measuring stick.
José Altuve hit a grand slam in the sixth one inning after putting Houston ahead on a solo homer, and the AL-leading Astros held off the Giants 9-6 in a matchup of baseball's top two teams.
“We’re one of the toughest teams in the big leagues,” said Houston bench coach Joe Espada, filling in as manager Dusty Baker served a one-game suspension. “We know that it's a very important series for us and the guys came in and they were ready to take the field.”
It marked Altuve's sixth career slam and third this season. His third multi-homer game of 2021 was the seventh of his career.
“Crazy approach today. I was swinging at pitches out of the zone,” Altuve said. “I felt pretty good.”
Altuve cleared the fences as fans chanted, “You're a cheater!” in reference to Houston's sign-stealing scandal.
“He’s a special player. He lives for moments like those,” Espada said. “There’s no one that we’d rather have at the plate than José Altuve. He steps up to the plate and he embraces those moments. It’s just awesome to watch him do that over and over again.”
Aledmys Díaz went deep in the ninth for the Astros.
San Francisco will have a new face in the lineup but not until Sunday at the earliest after acquiring slugger Kris Bryant from the Cubs before the trade deadline Friday. He won't arrive until after Saturday's game.
Baker didn't get to square off against his former club because of the suspension handed down a couple of hours before first pitch along with a three-game penalty for left-handed reliever Brooks Raley for throwing at a Seattle batter Monday. The 72-year-old Baker, who managed the Giants from 1993-2002, watched batting practice behind the cage in dress clothes.
Framber Valdez (7-2) struck out six and walked three over five innings for Houston. He pitched six no-hit innings in his last start against the Rangers on Saturday.
Buster Posey hit a tying double in the third for the Giants, who couldn't do enough to back All-Star Kevin Gausman (9-5) as he dropped to 0-2 over three starts since July 11.
Donovan Solano added an RBI double for the NL West leaders, who are eager to welcome the do-everything Bryant and were initially hopeful he could make it cross-country to be available for the middle game of the series Saturday afternoon. His photo was already splashed across the big screen as fans cheered.
“It's a good day,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said.
Kyle Tucker's seventh-inning dropped fly in center for an error led to a sacrifice fly by Wilmer Flores moments later followed by Brandon Crawford's RBI single for San Francisco.
Yuli Gurriel hit an RBI single in the first and Tucker drew a bases-loaded walk as the Astros took a quick 2-0 lead in the first.
Kendall Graveman struck out three over 1 1/3 innings in his Astros debut. He entered in the seventh for his first outing since Houston acquired him Tuesday from the Mariners.
“I’ve been anxious to get in the game. It was good to get in there and pitch,” Graveman said.
Graveman had last worked against the Astros on Monday in Seattle.
“I’m glad he’s on our side. His stuff was unbelievable,” Espada said.
Raley appealed the suspension Friday, when he was also fined for intentionally throwing at and hitting Seattle’s J.P. Crawford.
The Astros pitcher plunked Crawford in the back on a 3-1 pitch after giving up Dylan Moore’s grand slam that helped the Mariners rally to an 11-8 comeback win.
Astros: New closer Yimi García, acquired from the Marlins, was active. ... Another newly added reliever, Phil Maton, will join the Astros on Saturday after he was acquired Friday in a trade with the Indians that sent outfielder Myles Straw to Cleveland. When asked about whether he wished the Astros kept Straw, Baker said: “I can’t answer that. I don’t think that’s anybody’s business. I’m not the decision maker, so sometimes you have to do what the organization asks. Sometimes you don’t have a choice.”
Giants: 3B Evan Longoria was on the field before the game and is scheduled to ramp up his hitting routine as he works back from a sprained left shoulder he injured July 5 in a collision with SS Brandon Crawford. There still is no timetable for when Longoria might return, so Bryant will certainly get some time at third among outfield positions and perhaps first base with Brandon Belt still rehabilitating an inflamed right knee.
RHP Zack Greinke (10-3, 3.48 ERA) pitches Saturday for the Astros, trying to win his third straight start. The Giants counter with LHP Alex Wood (9-3, 3.65), who has won his last four decisions since a June 1 loss to the Angels.
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