I’m not sure this is what MLB had in mind when they urged the world to “Let the Kids Play,” but it sure is fun when the Houston Astros do it.
A handful of youngsters – most of whom were Minor Leaguers in the past fortnight – made big contributions to propel the Astros to a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Oakland Athletics Friday night.
Things looked bleak as the Astros entered the seventh inning trailing 2-0. After scoring 15 runs in the first two games of their previous series, the Astros had mustered only a single tally and just seven hits in the 15 innings since.
A home run from Josh Reddick put Houston on the board in the seventh to cut the A’s lead in half, 2-1.
The blast, Reddick’s fifth of the season, snapped a personal 0-for-15 spell and was accompanied by a nifty bat flip and smack of bubble gum as well.
It also set the stage for the Astros’ youth to make the most of opportunities that would come their way in a one-run contest.
Later in the inning, rookie Myles Straw was summoned to pinch-run for Tyler White, who worked a two-out walk that forced old friend and A’s starter Mike Fiers from the ballgame.
Tony Kemp sent a pitch from reliever Lou Trivino, Fiers’ successor, to leftfield that carried over the head of Robbie Grossman, whose poor route on the flyball coupled with Straw’s impeccable speed allowed the Astros to easily score the tying run.
Ramon Laureano lead off the bottom half of the seventh with a double against Hector Rondon and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt.
With the infield playing in, Marcus Semien ripped a grounder to newly-inserted shortstop Jack Mayfield, who made his Major-League debut just days ago. Super Jack made a tremendous diving stop to snag a ball behind his body, prevent Laureano from scoring, and retire Semien for the second out.
Rondon was able to induce Grossman into a groundout to end the inning with the scored still tied, 2-2.
Following Mayfield’s super defensive play, Derek Fisher, another Astro who recently received a promotion to the big club, socked a tiebreaking homer on Trivino’s first pitch of the eighth inning to put the Astros ahead, 3-2. Fisher absolutely mashed the pitch for his first longball of the season with Houston.
It was quite joyous to see the newbies take advantage of opportunities they were presented. Even amidst the rash of injuries that has plagued the club, the Astros seem infiltrated with more excitement, wonder, and fire from the vibrant energy of their young guys.
Jack Mayfield after the game: “We’re having a blast up here, we’re winning games...we got music playing all the time, that’s the best thing, that means we won the game...”— Julia Morales (@JuliaMorales) June 1, 2019
The team finds ways to have fun and entertain the masses on a nightly basis, but more importantly they keep winning.
Ryan Pressly came on in the eighth and didn’t allow a ball to leave the infield during his inning of work, though he required some help from his second baseman Kemp – who made a great play on a groundball up-the-middle – to keep the A’s off the bases.
Roberto Osuna pitched the ninth for Houston and got three quick outs to collect his 16th save in 17 tries this season. Rondon (3-1, 2.70) earned the win for the Astros and Trivino (2-2, 3.81) took the loss, his second defeat in as many outings.
Both starters pitched fairly well and produced nearly identical pitching lines for their teams. Brad Peacock went six innings and allowed two runs on five hits for the Astros, though he had as many walks as strikeouts (3) after averaging 12.5K/9 over his previous four starts.
Fiers tossed 6 2⁄3 innings for the A’s and produced a nearly identical pitching line to Peacock’s. Fiers allowed two runs on four hits with three walks and strikeouts, apiece.
A two-run homer by Matt Chapman, his 15th of the season, put the A’s on top, 2-0, through three innings and ended an extended stretch of zeroes for the Astros’ starter.
Brad Peacock's scoreless inning streak ends at 14 after Matt Chapman hits a two-run HR on an 0-2 pitch in the third.— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) June 1, 2019
Michael Brantley hit a single that beat the shift to start the fourth inning, which tied him with the Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez for the most opposite-field hits in the Majors with 27.
Chapman committed his fifth error of the season, tied with Alex Bregman, when he misplayed a groundball in the second inning to put two runners aboard. Unfortunately, Yuli Gurriel was too far off second base and got caught in a rundown that squashed the inning.
The Astros improved to 65-61 against the A’s all-time with Friday’s win. Brian McTaggart provided some historical context regarding the divisional rivalry between the two teams before the game.
At one point, the Astros were 5-25 all-time against the A's. They're 59-36 against them since, taking a 64-61 lead in the all-time series.— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) June 1, 2019
The Astros have won nine straight series openers, according to McTaggart.
Astros rally to beat the A's, 3-2, behind a tiebreaking homer from Derek Fisher in the 8th.— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) June 1, 2019
Astros are 38-20 and lead AL West by 8 1/2 games.
Also, they've won their last nine series openers.
Peacock entered the night with a .156 batting average against, second-best amongst AL starters. A’s batters went 5-for-22 (.227) against him Friday night.
Reddick, who entered the night leading baseball with a .378 road batting average, went 1-for-4. White saw 22 pitches in his three at-bats Friday night, a welcome sight for a struggling hitter.
Trivino has struggled against the Astros over the past season-plus, recording a 5.40 ERA in his last 10 appearances against them.
Former Astros farmhand Laureano extended his hitting streak to a career-best 13 games with a two-out single in fourth and has reached base in 20 straight. Laureano, who entered the game batting .379 (13-29) against Houston in his career, went 2-for-4, though he hit into a double-play that helped the Astros escape trouble in the second inning.
Box score and videos here.
The Astros continue their series with the A’s Saturday night when ace Justin Verlander (8-2, 2.38) is opposed by veteran lefty Brett Anderson (6-3, 3.86). Verlander went seven innings and allowed three runs in his most recent outing but took the loss against the Boston Red Sox. Anderson has won two straight starts and allowed only one run in each victory. First pitch is slated for 9:07 CT.