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Astros, Gurriel walk off M’s in extras again, 6-5

Verlander struggles, but Astros prevail thanks to clutch gene from Yuli

Seattle Mariners v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Yuli Gurriel is clutch. That may not actually be a thing, but it doesn’t matter. The man comes up with big hits for the Houston Astros when they need it most.

2017 World Series, Game 5. Astros down, and seemingly out, with Clayton Kershaw on the mound.

In 2018, Gurriel hit .403 and had 78 RBI with runners in scoring position, both Top 3 marks in the Majors.

Last night, he lined a shot over the Crawford Boxes to give the Astros an uplifting and much-needed walkoff victory in extra innings.

Yuli did it again Saturday night, smacking a ball into the gap on a hobbled foot to send the Astros to their second extra-inning walkoff win against the Seattle Mariners in as many nights at Minute Maid Park, 6-5.

The consecutive walkoff hits by an Astros player hadn’t happened in a decade.

It’s hardly logical that things even got to that point, though.

After falling behind 2-0 early, the Astros responded with five runs in the second inning.

Michael Brantley and Gurriel worked back-to-back walks to start the inning. With one out, Josh Reddick began a stretch of four straight batters reaching base when he smoked a shot past second baseman Dee Gordon that was ruled an error. Brantley scored on the play to make it 2-1.

Jake Marisnick followed with a smash down the leftfield line for a double, driving in two more runs to put the Astros atop for the first time, 3-2. Marisnick entered the night hitting .340 (18-for-53) with a 1.048 OPS against lefties this season and the double was his eighth off southpaws in 2019.

Seattle Mariners v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Myles Straw dinked a check swing to open space past M’s starter Yusei Kikuchi and easily strode safely into first while Marisnick advanced to third. George Springer became the sixth of seven Astros batters to reach base by chopping a bouncer over the head of first baseman Daniel Vogelbach that scored Marisnick and moved Straw to third.

Jose Altuve provided a sacrifice fly to plate the Astros’ fifth run of the inning, a frame in which they batted around.

It was quite the outburst by a team starved for offense, and the previous night’s late heroics seemed to be the lift the Astros needed to reignite their offense.

On top of that, the Astros had staked Cy Young-frontrunner Justin Verlander to a formidable lead.

Unfortunately, Verlander struggled with command of his secondary pitches most of the night.

Before the Astros took the lead, Verlander walked Kyle Seager with two outs in the top of the second inning. Tim Beckham followed with his 12th homer of the season, a no-doubter off Verlander’s slider—which batters were hitting just .090 against coming into the game. The early deficit marked the 11th time in 13 games the Astros failed to score first.

Gordon began the third inning with a single and leadoff hitter Mallex Smith lined a double to right to put runners at second and third with no outs. Domingo Santana scored Gordon with an RBI groundout to trim the Astros’ lead to 5-3. The Mariners didn’t score again in the inning, but they were able to get Verlander to an elevated pitch count of 62 just nine outs into the game.

After a scoreless fourth, Verlander needed just four pitches to get the first two outs of the fifth. It seemed possible he may pitch into the sixth inning, until Santana crushed a moonshot the opposite way to make it a one-run game. Santana’s bomb was his 18th of the season and gave him an AL-high 62 RBI.

Seattle Mariners v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Verlander was only able to get through five innings, throwing 100 pitches and allowing four runs on five hits and four walks. He struck out five but surrendered two home runs to bring his season total to 23, tied for most in MLB to continue what has become a startling trend.

The outing was the first time in 11 starts Verlander didn’t pitch into the seventh inning and the four walks are the most he’s issued as an Astro.

Seattle Mariners v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

But as far as bad starts go, which the Astros have had a lot of recently, Verlander’s was mild. He’s been dominant all season and will continue to be.

The bigger talking point is the offense.

Kikuchi had an ERA above 7 in the month of June with one fewer walk (12) than strikeouts (13). His WHIP was over 2.00 and he had allowed a 188 sOPS+ in the last 30 days after posting a 99 and 110 sOPS+ in April and May, respectively. This was a guy ripe for the picking.

Sure, the Astros scored five in an inning and six in the game. Unfortunately, the second-inning binge transpired the way most splurges do: As a temporary fix.

Kikuchi ended with a nearly equivalent line to Verlander: Five innings, six hits, five runs (three earned), three walks, and five strikeouts. If not for the error by Gordon, this game may not have made it to extras.

Hector Rondon came on in the sixth for the Astros and got two outs but also permitted two walks. He was relieved by Will Harris, who induced a groundout from Smith to keep the Astros lead at 5-4.

Manager AJ Hinch summoned Alex Pressly a little earlier than usual in the seventh. Pressly retired the first two batters quickly but surrendered the game-tying homer to Vogelbach with two strikes. The blast was Vogelbach’s 20th of season and what had seemed like a sure thing for the Astros slowly began to spiral into another night filled with frustration.

Seattle Mariners v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Alex Bregman started the seventh with a walk off new reliever Anthony Bass. After Brantley grounded into a fielder’s choice, Gurriel initially appeared to leg out an infield single. But replay showed Gurriel failed to touch the base and the call was overturned. To make things worse, Gurriel limped away from the play after jamming his foot/ankle as he stretched for the bag.

Collin McHugh looked fantastic striking out the side in a flawless eighth and Roberto Osuna had a perfect ninth.

As the game entered extras for the second time in as many nights, and third overall against Seattle this season, the Astros had scored in only three of their last 28 innings. Houston had gone hitless since the fourth, which included five innings against Seattle’s relief corps—one of the league’s worst, statistically.

Chris Devenski (2-0, 4.58) worked around a single in the 10th inning to set up Gurriel’s late dramatics.

The Astros are now 43-2 when Gurriel records an RBI. He’s tied for the club lead with 18 RBI in June (Yordan Alvarez) and also leads the Astros with 25 hits and 14 RBI when the game is tied. Amazingly, Gurriel has more RBI in extra innings (5) than the rest of the team (4).

He’s also making contact better than pretty much any other Big-Leaguer.

The victory was the first time the Astros recorded two straight walkoff wins since 2015 and Houston sports the best record in extra-inning games this season at 6-1.

The Astros have fared well against lefties in 2019, a positive trend which continued with Saturday’s win.

Verlander is three shy of Jim Bunning for 18th place on the all-time strikeout list.

With one more homer, Springer will move into sixth place in Astros’ history.

Dan Altavilla had an impressive sixth inning in which he blew away Springer and Altuve with triple-digit heat. Elias (2-1, 3.55) took his first loss of the season.

Box score and videos here.

The Astros finish their series with the Mariners Sunday afternoon when Gerrit Cole (7-5, 3.42) is opposed by Marco Gonzales (9-6, 4.34). Cole got the win his last time out against his former team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. He pitched six innings and allowed one run on seven hits but struck out only three, his lowest total of the season. He stills lead MLB in strikeouts with 155. Gonzales surrendered three runs (two earned) on eight hits against Milwaukee in his last start and earned the win. After a rugged start to the season, Gonzales has allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his last four outings. First pitch Sunday is slated for 1:10 CT.