The Astros played like the worst team in baseball tonight.
The Astros played like the amazing World Champion, comeback kids they really are.
I don’t know whether to love them or hate them right now. Their comeback in the eleventh inning was great for a big hell yeah, but it was their own senseless mistakes that made a comeback necessary. They were like the (perhaps apocryphal) pyromaniac fire fighter who sets the fire, just so he can be there for the fun of helping to put it out.
The Astros had thirteen hits tonight to the Rangers’ six, and yet at the end of nine innings the score was tied at five each. Why? Three costly errors by the Astros that gifted runs to the Rangers. And three costly base running errors that potentially wiped runs off the scoreboard for the Astros as well.
But with the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, Josh James was brought into a, for him, unusual high leverage situation. He proceeded to shut down the Rangers for two innings, allowing only a walk, and inducing four strikeouts. His fastball pierced 101 MPH three times.
Perhaps tonight will be remembered as the night Josh James found himself.
And in the top of the eleventh, after not scoring since the sixth inning, the Astros finally got on the board again with a Jose Altuve double that scored George Springer racing home from first. Which was followed by a Myles Straw insurance run RBI single, insurance that was sorely needed.
George: fast, Altuve: clutch, Myles: insurance.#TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/MNxm8duLpT— Houston Astros (@astros) July 14, 2019
Needed because, shades of last night, the Astros bullpen again seemed hell-bent on giving up the lead. Roberto Osuna let the Rangers walk-off last night’s game, and he came too damn close to doing it again. But after giving up a run and then putting the winning runs on first and second with two outs, Osuna got back-up catcher Tim Federowicz to fly out, and Osuna and the Astros hung on to win.
The Astros took the early lead in the first inning with a George Springer lead-off walk, a Jose Altuve single, both runners advancing on an Alex Bregman fielder’s choice. Springer scored on a Michael Brantley sacrifice fly, and Altuve scored on a Yordan Alvarez double.
But the Rangers tied the score in their half of the first on back-to-back homers by lead-off hitter Shin Soo Choo and Danny Santana.
The Astros took the lead back briefly in the third on a Michael Brantley RBI single which scored Jose Altuve, who had doubled to lead off the inning. The inning had an early end however, as Bregman was thrown out at third attempting to advance on a would be wild pitch.
In the bottom of the third the Astros’ defense fell apart and handed the Rangers a lead. With one out Shin Soo Choo reached first on an error by Jose Altuve. He would reach third on a fielding error by Alex Bregman, which allowed Danny Santana to reach first. Santana would then steal second, putting runners at first and second with one out. Nomar Mazara then hit a fly to right center field. George Springer fielded it cleanly, and threw home for an attempted assist against Choo. But the one hop throw skipped past catcher Max Stassi, allowing both Choo and Santana to score. It seemed like a routine play for the catcher to catch that ball and tag out the runner attempting to advance, but the official scorer credited the error to Springer. In either case three Astros errors cost Wade Miley and the Astros two unnecessary runs.
The Astros tied the score in the fifth on Alex Bregman’s 24th home run, but the damage in that inning could have been more had lead off hitter Jose Altuve not gotten thrown out trying to stretch a lead-off single into a double and getting thrown out at second base Craig Biggio style.
Here’s the Bregman homer.
If you ain't got no giddy up, then giddy out my way.#TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/xgoNhFdykf— Houston Astros (@astros) July 14, 2019
If any player is the fireman tonight in the above analogy, it is Altuve, who had the game winning hit, was 4 for 6, but had the crucial error in the third inning, and probably cost the team another run with his base running error.
The Astros took the lead in the sixth but also wasted a great opportunity to add more runs. Yuli Gurriel opened the inning with an infield single, and with one out, Max Stassi singled Gurriel to second. Jake Marisnick loaded the bases with a walk, and Springer plated Gurriel with a hard grounder to third that was ruled an error, but could have been scored a hit. But with the bases loaded, Altuve and Bregman both proceeded to strike out, leaving the Astros lead at one.
Another opportunity was wasted in the ninth inning. Myles Straw was sent in to pinch run for Michael Brantley with two outs. Yordan Alvarez was at bat, and we all know how easily Straw could have scored on an Alvarez double or an Alvarez home run, neither being terribly unlikely outcomes. But after one pitch to Alvarez, Straw got picked off first, inning over, no runs.
After the shaky first inning, Wade Miley was again superb tonight, and perhaps for that reason Manager A. J. Hinch left him in for the seventh inning, past his usual pitch count. Maybe that is why DeLino DeShields, who had only two home runs before tonight, was able to tie the score with a dinger to left. After this pitch below, number 111 for the night, his season high, Hinch removed Miley.
Wade Miley, 87mph Velcro Ball. pic.twitter.com/WzToHisL3V— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 14, 2019
Will Harris retired Danny Santana to keep the score tied.
Miley pitched 6.2 innings, allowing five runs, but only three earned. He gave up just four hits, but three of them were solo home runs. Another solid performance by Miley against a good hitting team.
Ryan Pressly followed Will Harris by pitching a scoreless eighth inning, followed by the two smokin-hot James innings. Because the Altuve/Straw winning RBI came after James’ second inning of work, James is credited with the win in this game. Despite allowing a run in the eleventh and almost losing the game, Osuna is credited with the save.
Osuna was clearly struggling against mechanical issues tonight and probably last night as well, and hopefully he and pitching coach Brent Strom can figure out those issues soon.
Tomorrow Justin Verlander goes for a series split. He faces Ariel Jurado.
Game time 2:05 PM.
Box score and videos HERE.