Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Jonathan Villar highlighted a big seventh inning with a two-run double as the Houston Astros rallied past the Toronto Blue Jays and earned a 6-4 win on Thursday.
The opener of the four-game series was decided by the bullpens. The Astros scored four times off Aaron Loup in the pivotal seventh while their relievers shut down Toronto's potent lineup over the final three innings.
Preston Tucker had a memorable Minute Maid Park debut, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, an RBI and a run scored, while the veteran Jose Altuve was predictably productive with two hits, two runs scored and two steals.
Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion hit back-to-back homers in the first inning for the Blue Jays, who have dropped four of their last five following a promising three-game winning streak.
Loup (1-2) allowed four runs and did not record an out behind Drew Hutchison, who struck out nine over six quality innings.
Loup entered in the seventh with the Blue Jays holding a 4-2 lead and promptly allowed three hits and a walk before being exiting. Tucker sliced a double to left to plate Jason Castro, and Villar hit a chopper down the first-base line to bring home the tying and go-ahead runs.
Altuve was intentionally walked by Roberto Osuna to put runners on the corners, and as he swiped second, Josh Thole's throw hit his knee and got away from Ryan Goins, allowing Villar to score an insurance run.
Encarnacion bounced into a double play for the second time in the game in the eighth, and Chad Qualls
Astros starter Roberto Hernandez, known for his penchant for ground-ball outs, served up a pair of long home runs in the first inning. He threw a fastball over the middle of the plate that Bautista crushed off the billboards beyond the left-field bleachers, then rode a slider that slid into Encarnacion's wheelhouse and was redirected onto the railroad tracks.
Houston got one run back in the second inning, as Altuve singled, stole second and scored on Luis Valbuena's double onto Tal Hill's in center field.
Devon Travis made it 3-1 when he doubled in Carrera in the third, and it stayed that way until Altuve doubled leading off the sixth and wound up scoring on George Sringer's dribbler to third.
After retiring 10 straight hitters, Hernandez gave up a single and a double to open the seventh and was pulled after walking Josh Thole to load the bases. Josh Fields (2-0) limited the damage to an Carrera sacrifice fly.
Josh Donaldson went 1-for-4 and extended his on-base streak to 32 straight games against the Astros ... Hutchison allowed two runs on five hits ... Hernandez also took a no-decision after giving up four runs on six hits over 6 1/3 innings ... The Astros improved to 3-12 when trailing after six innings ... The Blue Jays are 2-9 all-time at Minute Maid Park.