Carlos Marmol had owned the Astros in the past, but tonight was a different story. Trailing 3-1 in the top of the ninth, the Houston bats came alive. Brett Wallace, who already hit a homer in the fourth, singled off Marmol to lead off the inning. Chris Johnson followed with a double down the right field line, and Matt Downs hit a pinch-hit double to tie the game at three, still with no outs. Angel Sanchez advanced Downs to second on a sacrifice bunt, and then Michael Bourn drove him in with a single to left center. Hunter Pence (absolutely locked in right now) later crushed a three-run bomb, and the Astros had scored six off Marmol to take a 7-3 lead. Mark Melancon finished the game with a perfect ninth, and the Astros won a wild one at Wrigley.
On a much-anticipated day for Astro fans, Jordan Lyles also did not disappoint. The rookie right-hander tossed seven strong innings and only allowed two runs (one earned). He entered the eighth inning with a 1-0 lead, but it didn't hold up for long. Geovany Soto led off the inning with a double, and Lyles' errant throw to third on a bunt from Tyler Colvin allowed the Cubs to tie the game. Lyles was then pulled, and the bullpen surrendered two more doubles to extend the Chicago lead to 3-1 going into the ninth.
Lyles stranded a runner on third base in the first two innings, and he looked very calm pitching with runners in scoring position. His mound presence was phenomenal, and he relied on lots of first pitch strikes to get ahead early in the count.
Lyles struck out Carlos Zambrano swinging in the third for his first career strikeout, and he was able to pitch out of a jam in the fifth. Blake DeWitt led off the inning with a double to left, and he advanced to third on a Tony Campana bunt with one out. Lyles was then able to strikeout Soto and Zambrano to get out of trouble.
I honestly cannot say enough about how impressive Lyles looked tonight. He kept most of the Cub hitters guessing and was able to command his fastball very effectively. Lyles didn't walk anyone, and he pitched very efficiently. He only threw 92 pitches (68 strikes) across his seven plus innings, and I am already excited about his next start on Sunday in San Diego.
Recruited to play football at South Carolina, Lyles also looked really good in the batter's box. He grounded out in the second inning, but I think he beat out the throw and should have plated Houston's first run of the game. He also recorded his first career hit on a single to right with two outs in the seventh.
These last two victories have been unbelievably exciting, and we can sweep Chicago with a win tomorrow afternoon. Why not?