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What we learned as Giants drop opener to AL-leading Astros

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Jose Altuve

SAN FRANCISCO -- If Kris Bryant was put on a flight to SFO on Friday night, let's hope he didn't have in-flight access to the Giants game.

Kevin Gausman had another rough start and the Giants had no answers for Jose Altuve, who quieted the Oracle Park crowd twice with homers to left. Two late rally attempts felt short and they lost 9-6 to the Houston Astros in a lengthy three-hour, 58-minute game.

Altuve was booed loudly in every at-bat and greeted with "you're a cheater!" chants during his third at-bat. He responded by hitting a grand slam to left, his second homer of the night, and breaking the game open. 

The Giants took advantage of some sloppy Astros defense in the seventh to get a couple of runs back and get within two, but Aaron Sanchez gave up a run in the eighth and Jarlin Garcia allowed a solo homer in the ninth. Sanchez, appearing for the first time since May 4, allowed three hits in two innings and struck out one. 

Three straight Giants got base hits to open the bottom of the ninth, bringing the tying run to the plate, but Wilmer Flores flied out, Brandon Crawford struck out and Donovan Solano flied out. 

Here are three more things to know:

Still Not Right

Gausman threw just 7 1/3 innings in his previous two starts and he nearly didn't make it out of the first inning Friday. Gausman needed 43 pitches to get out of the inning and escaped with the bases loaded. As the pitches piled up, Sammy Long started to quickly get loose in the bullpen.

 

And then, Gausman completely turned it around. He needed just 32 pitches to get through the next three innings and was cruising until Altuve took him deep on a fastball that was up around his eyes. It was an extremely strange appearance.

Gausman ended up going 4 1/3 innings and allowed three runs on six hits and two walks. He struck out nine of the 13 batters he retired. 

There clearly is something off since the All-Star break. Gausman got just two swinging strikes on his splitter, a pitch that was routinely getting double-digit whiffs in the first half. Of his four shortest starts of the year, three have come in the last 11 days.

Altuve's Revenge

Say this for Altuve: He is taking all the heckling and putting up numbers that are right there with the best of his career. Altuve had his seventh career multi-homer game and hit his third grand slam of the season, getting to 25 homers in 91 games. He scored three runs and drove in five. 

The backbreaker came in the sixth inning, with the Giants somehow down by just a run despite all their early issues. A single, error and walk loaded the bases for Altuve and Gabe Kapler replaced Sammy Long with Jay Jackson, who had not allowed a hit in six previous appearances. Jackson grooved a 2-2 fastball and Altuve blasted it to left-center, giving the Astros a five-run lead. 

RELATED: That's a first: Crawford hits unusual Oracle Park double

Where'd They Go

The crowd was loud when Altuve was at the plate, but Giants officials couldn't be thrilled with the overall number. They announced an attendance of 28,020, which isn't a great number for a first-place team on a nice Friday night in the middle of the summer.

This is the best week of the year at Oracle Park in terms of opponents but the Giants haven't sniffed a sellout. They averaged 33,914 for three games against the Dodgers, who twice drew 50,000 for weeknight games against the Giants in L.A. last week. 

The season-high for the Giants at home is 36,928 against the A's, and they should have a couple shots to top that this weekend, especially with Bryant arriving.

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