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Astros 5, A's 4: Series opener is a wild, extra inning affair

Dalls Keuchel is really good, and both offenses are blanked for 9 innings, only to erupt for a combined 9 runs in the final 2 innings.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Dalls Keuchel entered tonight's game against the Oakland A's with a 0.90 ERA...

...and he improved it to 0.62.  This was thanks to another masterful performance: 9.0 IP, while scattering just 2 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 4.  The Bearded One is really, really good.  Unfortunately for him though, the Astros were not able to award him with the much-deserved win, as they let a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 10th slip away.  The game sat at 0-0 through 9, as the fans were treated to a good ol' fashioned pitcher's duel, as A's and former Sugar Land Skeeters' starter, Scott Kazmir, blanked us with 7 great innings.

Both offenses were essentially non-existent for the first 9 innings, so let's fast forward to the top of the 10th.  With 2 outs and nobody on, George Springer laced a double down the RF line on a 3-1 count.  The A's then decided to walk the red-hot Jed Lowrie.  Marwin Gonzalez then comes up for his first plate appearance of the night, as he pinch-ran for Evan Gattis in the top of the 8th.  What was crazy about this is that I actually had confidence that Marwin would deliver for us.  And he rewarded my belief in him, as he laced a double in the left-center (slightly opposite field, a beautiful piece of hitting) gap, scoring 2.  Call in the closer Mr. Gregerson, and game over right?  Wrong.  The A's keep it interesting by scratching out 2 runs of their own in the bottom of the 10th, to push the game into the 11th.  I should disclose here that we did not have our usual strong defense in the 10th, so it isn't fair to him to simply look at the box score.  With 2 outs, there was a ball hit to Carter's right, and although he dove for it, I believe it was a play that he should have made.  That was followed by a slow roller to Altuve in which he had to come in hard for it.  He tried to do a bare-hand flip to 1st, but the ball got stuck in his hand for just a split second, which made him loft his toss way more than anticipated, allowing a hustling Stephen Vogt to beat the toss.  Again, it definitely wasn't an error (like Carter's was correctly not issued an error), but I consider both plays were plays that should have been made.  I am sure Cater and Altuve felt they should have made their respective plays as well.  The next batter, Josh Reddick, laced a double, scoring both of the fortunate A's that just got on.  Reddick advanced to 3rd on the throw at the plate.  The ball got by Conger, as he tried to make a quick snap-tag on a sliding Vogt.  Luckily Gregerson was being a professional pitcher and was backing up the catcher like he should have been, as he threw out Reddick trying to score on a little league HR.

The Astros' did not sulk about having to play even more baseball, as they answered with 3 more runs in the top of the 11th.  Now, up 5-2 in the bottom of the 11th, we're in the clear right?  Wrong.  And that's what makes baseball such a beautiful game.  A lead-off single followed by a 2-run HR immediately cut the lead to 5-4.  Neshek continued to struggle, as he gave up a single to the next hitter, and allowed him to go to second on a wild pitch.  Luckily he settled down and got back-to-back pop outs.  With 2 outs and a runner in scoring pitcher, Hinch elected to go with the lefty-on-lefty matchup, and called in Sipp.  Sipp walked the only batter he faced, and so there was yet another pitching change.  This was...Chad...Qualls.  I am pretty sure that I wasn't the only one that said, "Whaaatt?  Are you sure?"  I wouldn't be surprised if before he made his way to the rubber, Qualls pointed to himself and said, "Who?  Me?  Are you sure?"  If you recall, Qualls was basically untouchable last year, unless he pitched against the A's, where he proceeded to get lit up.  Although he did give up a hard hit ball to pretty deep CF, he did what he was asked to do, which was to get that final out.

So although it was crazy finish, the Astros held on for the win.  And that is what ultimately matters.  I will also mention that the struggling trio of Springer, Gattis, and Carter got on base 2 times each tonight.  Springer and Gattis had two hits apiece (and all 4 hits were solid, hard hit balls), and Carter roped a hanging off-speed pitch for his only hit, and also walked.  That is progress right there folks.

Lastly, yes, we are still in first place in the AL West!