By Brett Dolan

While the Astros have maintained the best record in the American League during a stretch of six starting pitchers being placed on the disabled list, there has been one constant. For better or worse, Mike Fiers is the lone starter to make every turn through the rotation. The last nine starts have certainly comprised the better portion of the equation.

On Sunday, Fiers worked around a pair of solo home runs while giving up just four hits and striking out a season best 11, as the Astros defeated the Twins 5-3 at Minute Maid Park to claim a series victory.

Fiers has posted a 2.50 ERA over the last nine starts, allowing 15 earned runs in 54 innings of work.

“Even with the two home runs I thought he was really good,” said manager A.J. Hinch. “That’s probably the best breaking ball he has had and that is saying a lot because he has had a really good breaking ball since this stretch started where he has been really, really effective.”

Kennys Vargas launched a deep blast in the upper deck in right center field off Fiers to start the scoring in the second inning. The Astros answered with a single run in the bottom of the frame when Jake Marisnick singled in Alex Bregman.

The Twins Ehire Adrianza homered in the third to put the Twins back in front.

However the Astros would take the lead for good with a pair of runs in the fourth. Nori Aoki doubled home Yuri Gurriel and Marwin Gonzalez for a 3-2 lead.

The Astros took advantage of their speed to extend the lead by two more runs in the seventh. Marisnick walked, swiped second base, took third on a ground out and scored on an errant throw back towards third base by Vargas. Altuve would later double in the inning, steal third, and scored when Josh Reddick struck out on a ball in the dirt forcing a throw to first base. Altuve raced home and touched the back tip of the plate, beating the throw to the dish from Vargas.

“I think that part of our game (speed & athleticism) gets lost a little bit because of the offensive production we have created and maintained,” explained Hinch. “We haven’t been as active on the bases as we can be. But it shows if we need to win a game in a different way than we’ve won in the last couple of months we still have that weapon.”

Chris Devenski pitched a perfect eighth inning. Ken Giles allowed a run in the ninth but earned his 20th save of the season.

The Astros will host Seattle Monday night in the first of a three-game series. Lance McCullers Jr. (7-2 3.05) will start for Houston against the Mariners Ariel Miranda (7-4 4.15).



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