KANSAS CITY — Right-hander Gerrit Cole went into the Astros’ record book on Friday night and right fielder George Springer gave him a major push to get there.
When Springer launched a two-out, three-run homer that snapped a tie in the ninth inning, the Astros were on their way to a 4-1 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium, and Cole was on his way to a club record 13th consecutive victory.
Springer also made a highlight reel catch in the fourth inning on an Alex Gordon deep liner that turned into a double play and saved Cole major problems.
“When somebody is throwing the ball like Cole, I’m just glad I could help out,” said Springer, who hit the go-ahead shot — his career-high 35th homer of the season — off reliever Heath Fillmyer.
The Astros (96-53) also snapped a three-game losing streak. Springer’s seventh career go-ahead shot in the eighth inning or later and his third this season helped Houston reduce its magic number to clinch the American League West title to seven. The second-place A’s remained 7 1/2 games back with a 14-9 win over the Rangers.
“George Springer is one swing away from having a great day every day,” manager AJ Hinch said. “He hangs in there as well as anyone.”
Cole is on a spectacular power pitching roll. With 11 strikeouts over eight innings, he now has double-digit strikeouts in six consecutive outings. His 13 consecutive victories since May 27 marks the longest streak in Astros history and the longest in the Majors since Joe Kelly won 15 straight spanning the 2015 and ‘16 seasons. Cole is the first to win 13 in a row in a single season since Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg accomplished the feat in 2013.
Cole had a 1-0 lead — on Jose Altuve’s 28th homer that set a club mark by a second baseman — going into the eighth, but the Royals scored an unearned run with the help of a throwing error by Martin Maldonado. That set the stage for Springer’s dramatics in the ninth. The three-run blast to left-center was a no-doubter that traveled a projected 433 feet, according to Statcast.
“[Springer] is the player of the game,” Cole said. “He made a great running catch to get the double up. And then the biggest swing of the night comes off his bat in the ninth.”
Going to the eighth, the possibility was growing that Cole might land in uncharted strikeout territory. He had recorded back-to-back games with 14 and another with 15 strikeouts in his previous three starts. Only Cole and Pedro Martinez in 1999 had accomplished that feat. No pitcher has had four straight performances of 14 or more strikeouts, and Cole had 10 going to the eighth.
But he got only one strikeout in the eighth and the Royals tied it before Cole got out of the inning having thrown 101 pitches. Roberto Osuna came on to record his 33rd save in the ninth.