I can’t remember a game quite like today’s matchup between the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics. It featured everything from wild pitches, to home runs, walks, steals galore, hijinks in the outfield and more. Sadly, it also saw the exit of Carlos Correa in the ninth inning with an injury after A’s pitcher Frankie Montas threw an inside fastball that struck Correa in the hand.
Lance McCullers started for the Astros and did not have his greatest outing. He pitched four and a third innings, giving up five runs on eight hits, while striking out six and walking one.
Things looked bleak for the good guys through six innings. Sean Manea held them hitless through his five innings, and reliever Ryan Dull extended that through the sixth inning. Fortunately, the Astros know how to score without hitting.
How is that possible? Great question! It all started off in the top of the sixth inning. Manea walked the first three batters he faced in the inning (George Springer, Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve) to load the bases for Correa. The Astros shortstop put the ball in play, and his counterpart on the A’s blundered what looked like a routine grounder on a well struck ball. However, that wasn’t the only error on the play. A’s centerfielder Jaff Decker decided to just, I don’t know, give up on his reach for the ball while it was rolling. I guess it was just too hard to bend over and pick up the ball. Anyway, that led to two Astros runs, closing the gap to a 5-2 margin.
The Astros would then load the bases against Dull, who replaced Manea after the comedy of two straight errors. Unfortunately, they couldn’t put another run on the board in the inning as Marwin Gonzalez hit into an inning ending double play.
Thankfully, baseball is a game of nine innings and the Astros were just getting warmed up. The Astros would score two more runs in the top of the seventh inning. Norichika Aoki led off the inning with the Astros’ first hit of the game (!!!) and then promptly stole second base. Jake Marisnick legged out an infield single. Springer hit into a fielder’s choice, erasing Marisnick but still beating the throw to first. A single by Bregman scored Aoki and advanced Springer to third. Another fielder’s choice, this time by Altuve, scored Springer and saw the speedy second baseman beat out the throw to first. Although he didn’t score, Altuve did manage to swipe two bags before Correa struck out to end the inning. The Astros trailed now by only one run, 5-4.
The sleeping giant of the Astros offense roared to life in the eighth inning. Two straight walks issued by the A’s to lead off the inning put runners on first and second. Gonzalez put down a solid bunt down to advance each runner 90 feet. A wild pitch by Sean Doolittle to Aoki scored Josh Reddick to tie up the game at five a piece. Aoki followed up with a sacrifice fly to score Brian McCann and give the Astros their first lead of the game. Springer added insult to injury as he blasted a two run shot to left centerfield, giving the Astros an 8-5 lead. The A’s would tack on a run in the bottom of the eighth to cut into the Astros’ lead before heading into the final frame.
After an Altuve single to start the ninth inning, disaster struck. As previously mentioned, Correa was struck in the hand by a pitch by Montas. It appeared that a 96 MPH fastball hit got away from Montas and beaned Correa on his bottom hand. Correa was promptly removed from the game. It really didn’t look good, but thankfully the X-rays were negative. Here’s hoping for a swift recovery.
With Correa out of the game, Mike Fiers answered the call of duty and took his spot on first. Altuve scored on a sharp liner by McCann and Fiers advanced to second base. Hilarity ensued as Aoki registered his second hit of the game and Fiers galloped home like a giraffe to put the Astros firmly ahead 10-6. Luke Gregerson came in to finish the game in the bottom of the inning and secure the Astros’ victory.
I still can’t believe what I just watched. After being down 5-0 after five innings, the Astros clawed their way back to an incredible victory. It just goes to show you that this offense remains potent no matter what inning. They can explode at the drop of a hat.
The Astros will face the A’s again tomorrow at 3:05 p.m. looking to complete the sweep. Charlie Morton will face off against Jharel Cotton in the series finale.