The Astros came into tonight’s game looking to pad out their division lead by beating up on a demoralized Mariners team. Instead they matched up against a Seattle squad that would grind out good at bats and put runners on all night before finally breaking through late and handing Houston a tough loss.
Leblanc in particular looked to be in control for most of the evening, as did the rest of Seattle’s pitching, which would hold Houston to just 1 run the entire game. For a while it seemed like that might be enough, but alas...
Framber would look to be in trouble directly out of the gate, surrendering a hit and a walk to the first two batters and showing yet more control issues. He would buckle down though, striking out the next 3 batters in order to escape the 1st without giving up a run.
This would be Framber’s MO during most of his start as he would walk 5 batters, breaking the career mark of 4 he set in just his last game. Each time he would wiggle off the hook thanks to some timely ground balls and strikeouts. Unfortunately, Valdez wasn’t helped by an interesting strike zone from home plate umpire Brian Gorman, who missed several obvious strikes during the course of the game.
Even so, it was Seattle pitcher Wade LeBlanc who would surrender the first run of the game in the bottom of the 4th. After holding Houston hitless through 4.2 innings, the Astros would finally break through with a Gurriel double followed immediately by a Marwin RBI double, giving the Astros the lead at 1-0.
Seattle’s arms would shut it down from there as LeBlanc finished out 5.1 innings before getting pulled for a bullpen that has been playing sharp lately. Astros pitching did not return the favor, as Framber would tough out his 5 innings before turning it over himself. Seattle would get a lot of traffic on the bases, but the pen would manage to keep them off the board as Hinch unpacked almost every high leverage arm available. Then came the 8th.
Rondón would come on to start the inning and promptly give up a single to Cruz, who Servais would pinch run for. This began a series of nerve-wracking at bats that would involve three pinch hitters including Astros killer Robinson Canó, a lucky bloop hit, a walk, and not one but two spectacular diving catches by defensive wizard Jake Marisnick.
Unfortunately, Seattle’s final pinch hitter would be Daniel Vogelbach, who would smack an elevated fastball from Rondon and put it in the bullpen for a grand slam. It was his second home run in as many games, and the first grand slam the Astros have given up this year.
That would seal the deal as Houston would go quietly in the 8th and fold quickly to Edwin Díaz in the 9th, who moves into 3rd place for saves in a single season, and is 1 save away from tying for 2nd.
It should be noted that even with the grand slam it was a gutsy performance by both the pitching staff and defense, who were able to turn aside multiple rallies from Seattle in a close game where the offense was asleep at the wheel. It is unfortunate that they could not be rewarded for their efforts.
The Astros are now 94-56. Their magic number to win the division remains at 9 while a postseason berth is still 3 away with a Rays victory. Houston drops to just 4 games ahead of the idle Athletics, who take on the Angels for three at Oakland starting tomorrow.
Josh James was announced as the starter tomorrow so Cole can get a little extra rest while the Astros get another look at the intriguing youngster. He’ll face off against Mike Leake, who’s had a couple of good appearances in a row heading into this start. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 pm CDT.
Box score and video here.