HOUSTON (AP)—The Houston Astros expected Kaz Matsui to give the team a spark. They didn’t expect him to do it so quickly, after missing most of spring training and the first 16 games with an injury.
Matsui hit the go-ahead two-run single in the eighth inning and the Houston Astros got an 11-7 win over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night. It was Matsui’s second clutch hit in the five games since his return from surgery to repair an anal fissure.
“Kaz has been a big lift the last three or four days he’s been in the lineup,” manager Cecil Cooper said. “Just the energy. I’m a little surprised because he hasn’t had a lot of at-bats.”
Cy Young winner Jake Peavy allowed four earned runs, matching the total for his four previous starts combined. The Padres ace allowed seven hits with two walks and two strikeouts in six innings.
The Astros have won three straight for the first time this season. Their 11 runs was a season-high, besting the previous high this season of 10 runs set on Monday.
“They’re all clicking right now,” Cooper said.
The game was tied at 7 before Matsui’s grounder down the right-field line scored J.R. Towles and Jose Cruz Jr. Towles singled with one out in the eighth before Cruz walked. Towles reached third on a wild pitch before the hit by Matsui.
“When I have a chance I want to hit,” Matsui said through a translator. “There’s nice guys after me so I just want to hit and try to be on the base and let those other guys hit.”
Tejada said Matsui’s return has been a boost to the team.
“It’s big because it’s not only because he can get a base hit, it’s because he’s a guy that can steal bases … and that’s what we want,” Tejada said.
Heath Bell (0-2) gave up the four runs in the eighth for the loss.
Tejada was 4-for-5 for the second straight night. Before Monday, he hadn’t had a four-hit game since Aug. 30, 2006.
“We have confidence now that we can come back,” he said. “It’s not only one guy, it’s everybody. Now we are confident in everybody and we know we can score runs.”
The Padres scored four runs in the top of the eighth inning and tied the game when Adrian Gonzalez scored on a sacrifice by Khalil Greene with one out. Gonzalez tumbled into and over Astros catcher Towles, who held onto the ball, but Gonzalez tagged home plate and was called safe. The call sent Cooper sprinting from the dugout to argue the call and brought several minutes of boos from the crowd.
“He caught the ball but he never tagged me so the call was right,” Gonzalez said. “As soon as I hit him I saw the plate and it was just a reaction to tag home plate.”
Said Cooper: “I didn’t think he got there.”
Callix Crabbe opened the eighth inning with a single before scoring on a double by Brian Giles. Paul McAnulty followed with a two-run homer that cut Houston’s lead to 7-6. Gonzalez tripled before Kevin Kouzmanoff grounded out and reliever Doug Brocail was replaced by closer Jose Valverde.
Valverde (3-1) struck out Josh Bard to end the inning after the score by Gonzalez. Valverde then pitched a perfect ninth inning.
Gonzalez also had a homer and a double to come a single shy of hitting for the cycle.
The Astros trailed 3-2 before a homer by Hunter Pence, which bounced off the arm of a fan in the first row of the left field Crawford Boxes, scored Geoff Blum in the sixth. It was the first homer of the year for Pence, who extended his hitting streak to five games.
Peavy was frustrated by the home run by Pence.
“I’ve pitched here plenty of times before and the ballpark has not come into play,” he said. “That being said, if this was any other park, I would have gone six innings and given up (two) runs.
“It does frustrate you when a ball goes out on the front row at Williamsport,” he said in a reference to the home of the Little League world series.
The Padres were scoreless until a three-run homer by Gonzalez pushed them ahead 3-2 in the sixth inning.
Brandon Backe rebounded from his last start, where he allowed 10 hits and six runs in three innings, by pitching seven solid innings. He allowed four hits and struck out four with the only runs coming on the homer by Gonzalez.
Astros CF Michael Bourn said he expects to miss two or three games after injuring his groin muscle on Monday night. … Former President George H.W. Bush, sat behind home plate with his wife Barbara wearing a green Astros baseball cap the team handed out to fans entering the ballpark in recognition of Earth Day. The team wore similar hats to promote their new environmentally friendly “Play Green” campaign.