Right fielder Kyle Tucker is taking the next step toward stardom with the Houston Astros, who conclude their two-game interleague set against the host New York Mets on Wednesday.
Tucker, 25, belted a three-run homer and matched his career high with his 14th stolen base in Houston's 9-1 victory onTuesday.
Selected fifth overall in the 2015 draft, Tucker is batting .255 with 15 homers and 51 RBIs this year.
He is also drawing plenty of attention from opposing pitchers as one of the Astros' top base-stealing threats. Tucker has been caught only once this season.
"My goal ever since I started pro ball was 20 homers and 20 bags every year and kind of go from there," Tucker said. "If I have 20 at the All-Star break, I'm not going to stop just because I got to 20. I'll change it to 25 and, whenever I get that, bump it to 30. It all depends on situations, how many opportunities you get."
Houston outscored New York 13-5 in a two-game home sweep last week and frustrated the Mets again on Tuesday. One bright spot for New York was the play of right fielder Starling Marte, who doubled twice among his three hits.
Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil returned after missing five games due to right hamstring tightness. He went 1-for-3 while batting eighth.
The Mets will turn to right-hander Taijuan Walker (6-2, 3.03 ERA) on Wednesday. He pitched six-plus innings and allowed three runs on eight hits in a 5-3 win over the Miami Marlins on Friday.
Walker, 29, has won his past three starts and pitched at least six innings in four straight outings. He has yielded just one home run in five starts across 30 1/3 innings this month.
Jose Altuve is 11-for-29 with a home run vs. Walker, who owns a 5-5 mark and 5.04 ERA in 13 career starts against Houston.
Veteran right-hander Justin Verlander (9-3, 2.22 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros. The 39-year-old veteran allowed one run on four hits over seven innings in a 3-1 win over the New York Yankees on Friday.
"That's why he's going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer," Yankees star Aaron Judge said. "He continues to bring it every single start."
Opponents are batting .192 against Verlander, who has posted an 84-16 strikeout-walk ratio through his first 14 starts this season.
Francisco Lindor is 10-for-32 with a home run against the two-time Cy Young Award winner. Verlander is 2-1 with a 4.80 ERA in three career starts vs. the Mets.
The Astros will be without outfielder Michael Brantley for the next 10 days after the left fielder landed on the injured list due to a right shoulder injury.
Brantley, who is hitting .288 with five homers and 26 RBIs, is hoping to return as soon as he is eligible on July 8.
"We have a good idea of what we need to do to get back as soon as possible," Brantley said. "I'm not happy to go on the IL for this, but at the same time, it's in the best interest of being 100 percent healthy moving forward."
Outfielder Chas McCormick was recalled from Triple-A Sugar Land to fill Brantley's roster spot. Rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena took over for Brantley as the team's No. 2 hitter and went 1-for-5 with two runs on Tuesday.
--Field Level Media