July 14th, 2024

Jeremy Pena’s homer lifts surging Astros to 3-1 win over Blue Jays

By Tim Wharnsby, The Canadian Press on July 1, 2024.

TORONTO – Jeremy Pena’s fifth-inning solo homer provided enough of an edge for the Houston Astros 3-1 to prevail in a series-opening pitcher’s duel against the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday.

Yordan Alvarez put on the finishing touches for Houston with a two-run homer to left field in the ninth inning off Blue Jays reliever Zach Pop. Ernie Clement answered with a solo shot in the bottom of the final inning of Josh Hader, who earned his 13th save.

Toronto starter Yariel Rodriguez (0-3) gave up the difference maker to Pena and Astros righty Hunter Brown (6-5) was good enough to quiet the red-uniform-wearing Blue Jays’ offence before 39,265 on Canada Day.

The Astros (43-41), who led Major League Baseball with a 17-8 record in June, won their 10th in 11 starts. The Blue Jays (38-46) have lost nine of 12.

Rodriguez set down the first 14 Astros in a row, but his no-hit bid went by the wayside when shortstop Pena smacked a first-pitch curveball to left field for his sixth homer.

Rodriguez made his second start since returning from a back injury 11 days ago. He mixed in his fastball and slider for six strikeouts, three fly-ball outs and five groundouts before Pena’s bomb.

After he issued a two-out walk to Jon Singleton in the seventh inning and with Pena returning to the plate, Rodriguez was replaced by reliever Trevor Richards.

In his 83-pitch, 6 2/3-inning effort, Rodrigues yielded two hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

Brown went an impressive 4-0 in his five starts last month.

The Blue Jays loaded the bases on him in the second inning, but Brown coaxed Clement into a pop-out at the pitcher’s mound and stuck out Kevin Kiermaier.

Brown retired nine in a row before a bloop single to right field from Clement in the fifth inning. The Astros starter breezed through the sixth inning, striking out Justin Turner, George Springer and Daulton Varsho.

Brown gave way to reliever Rafael Montero after striking out the side. In his six innings and 99 pitches, Brown shut out Toronto on two hits, three walks and five strikeouts.

The Blue Jays again loaded the bases with one out in the eighth inning, this time on reliever Bryan Abreu. But Springer lined out to third base and Varsho grounded out to second.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa initially was in Toronto’s starting lineup but was pulled at the last minute because of a left knee ailment.


The Blue Jays scratched hot-hitting Vladimir Guerrero Jr. from Monday’s lineup after was hit on the fingers of his hand by a 96 mph fastball from Yankees right-hander Gerrit Cole in the third inning of Sunday’s loss to New York.

He entered Monday with a .339 average since Apr. 29, the second-best average during this span behind New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge’s .385.

Guerrero has a seven-game hit streak in which he has gone 15 for 31 (.484) with five homers, five doubles and 19 RBI.


Jose Berrios (7-6) will start for the Blue Jays in the second game of the four-game series on Tuesday. The Astros will counter with righty Spencer Arrighetti (4-6)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2024.

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