MINNEAPOLIS — The Houston Astros have controlled the American League West with strong pitching and an offense that has hit the second-most home runs and taken the second-most strikeouts in the majors.
The boom and bust approach fell short against the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.
Houston got home runs from Chris Carter and Jose Altuve in a five-run ninth inning, but struck out 12 times in a 7-5 loss at Minnesota.
"That was a lot of strikeouts and we've seen that in our team a couple times," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Part of our team is trying to battle through stretches like this. I do think at the end, I thought we showed a lot of fight and that's what we'll take home with us for a nice homestand."
Ervin Santana (3-4) struck out 10 in seven scoreless innings to earn his first home win for the Twins, and Eduardo Nunez and Miguel Sano homered for Minnesota.
Lance McCullers (5-5) allowed a run in the first inning on three walks and the Twins scored on a sacrifice fly. McCullers gave up three runs on four hits and four walks, while striking out six in his second start since being recalled from Triple-A.
"I had a tough time getting ahead," McCullers said. "A couple of times I was throwing pitches that are usually there for me for some pretty sure strikes and they just weren't there in the first inning. In the second and on, really in the sixth, I was just coming back to my game plan and I threw alright trying to keep us in the game."
Down 7-0 in the ninth, Carter hit a three-run homer for his 18th home run of the season and Jose Altuve cracked a two-run shot that made it 7-5 before Trevor May struck out Marwin Gonzalez to end the game.
"I think we had a tough time getting into the game today," Hinch said. "They score in the first inning without getting a hit. That was sort of the theme of this series. We lose the series on just giving up 90 feet too much; too many walks, too many hit by pitches and it came back to bite us."
Altuve finished with four hits to extend his career-long streak of 27 consecutive games reaching base.
The All-Star second baseman has 45 multi-hit games this season, tied for fourth in the AL and he's now hitting .313, which is tied for 11t in the majors.
Altuve has reached base safely in every game he's played in August, hitting .365 during the month.
ASTROS: SS Carlos Correa missed his fourth consecutive start with a sore hamstring. "I'm really close," Correa said. "I just don't want to force it and then miss September baseball." . OF George Springer singled in his first rehab game at Double-A Corpus Christi on Saturday night.
TWINS: Twins manager Paul Molitor said SP Phil Hughes might throw off a mound later this week as he continues to recover from a back injury that landed him on the DL retroactive to Aug. 10.
ASTROS: Dallas Keuchel (15-6, 2.28) has pitched at least seven innings and allowed three runs or fewer in his last four starts. He'll start for Houston as they return home to take on the Seattle Mariners and LHP Vidal Nuno (0-2, 2.88) on Monday night.
TWINS: After a day off on Monday, the Twins travel to Chicago where rookie Tyler Duffey (2-1, 4.29) will kick off the three-game series against White Sox ace Chris Sale (12-7, 3.20) on Tuesday night.