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Game Recap: Another extra inning thriller! Chirinos walk-off double in 11th downs birds 4-3

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Superb pitching by Gerrit Cole and AAA call-up Cionel Perez keeps game close.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Even when the Astros are lethargic they’re exciting.

The Astros played a five hour game in Seattle yesterday. Fourteen innings. You could tell they were glad to be home playing the worst team in baseball. We all knew they would win. They’ve won 8 of their last 10. The fans knew they would win. The team knew they would win. This game would be a needed respite for an exhausted team. Rest for the weary.

The Orioles almost caught the Astros sleeping tonight.

It started in the first. With one out Oriole Anthony Santander doubled to right field on a ball that could have been stopped by first baseman Tyler White. But Gerrit Cole was pitching tonight, and it was obvious right away he had something special going. No problem. Sure enough, Trey Mancini hit an easy grounder to third for an easy out two. But wait. Yuli Gurriel lazily sort of flung the ball to first. It went high and just barely forced first baseman Tyler White off the bag. Runner safe, 1st and 2nd, one out.

With two outs Cole would hit a batter to load the bases. Then former Astros farm product Rio Ruiz slapped a cheap grounder around the shift in left field, scoring two runs, both unearned.

The Orioles added their third and final run in the third inning on a Chance Sisco opposite field home run, barely into the Crawford Boxes. And the way the listless Astros were behaving at the plate, it looked like that would be all the Orioles would need to win tonight.

After four innings the Oriole starter, a guy named Gabriel Ynoa, had faced the minimum number of batters. You’d think he was a young Fernando Valenzuela the way he baffled the Astros into soft contact.

Until Josh Reddick. In the bottom of the fifth, with two strikes and no balls, Reddick launched one of his better homers, past the bullpen in right center, to breathe some life into the lethargic Astros. Life, and maybe even inspiration.

Something moved Tony Kemp tonight. He’s been hitting the ball pretty hard lately, but nothing like the upper-deck monster shot that scored two more runs after Reddick’s blast tonight. The homer went 387 feet into the upper deck, the longest home run in Kemp’s major league career. With two swings the languid Astros had tied the game and had come back to life.

Here’s Reddick’s dinger.

And here’s Kemp’s

Meanwhile, despite the three runs on Cole, two unearned, he was as dominant as he’s ever been. In seven innings he blew 14 strikeouts past helpless Oriole hitters. He did not surrender a walk.

Here are Cole’s strikeouts in 22 seconds by the Pitching Ninja

Cole threw 80 strikes tonight out of 113 pitches. Twenty-nine were whiffs.

That’s all well and good, but when Cole left after the seventh inning the score was still tied 3-3. The Astros bullpen suffered a collective meltdown last night, and the only fresh arm available was that of Cionel Perez, just arrived today off the farm from Round Rock TX. His ERA at AAA was 6.46. It would seem even the Orioles would be able to take advantage of this situation.

After Hector Rondon pitched a scoreless eighth, Perez was brought in to win the game, no matter how long it took. Perez pitched a perfect ninth inning.

The Astros did not score.

Perez pitched a perfect tenth inning.

The Astros did not score

Perez pitched a perfect eleventh inning.

The Astros scored.

All night long, the Astros’ 2-3-and 4 hitters, Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley, and Yuli Gurriel, were 0-14. Until the eleventh. Yuli finally broke through with a one-out single. Behind him, Reddick flied out for the second out of the inning, which brought up Robinson Chirinos. Yeah, that Chirinos. The one that has hit a home run in each of his last four games.

No home run tonight, but a double into the left field corner that got the wheelhouse sign from third base coach Gary Pettis, and Yuli was chuggin on to home.

The throw beat him. But the catcher dropped the ball. But it seemed like Yuli never tagged home because the catcher’s body was in the way. But the catcher never tagged Yuli. Safe? Out?

What a replay mess.

SAFE!

Astros win.

Box score and videos HERE.

Tomorrow Framber Valdez goes for the Stros in his first start this year. He faces Andrew Cashner.

Game time 3:10 CDT.