It was far from pretty Tuesday night for the Houston Astros.
Their starter, Jose Urquidy, was making his Major League debut—in Coors Field, of all places—and didn’t last four innings.
The Colorado Rockies loaded the bases with no outs in consecutive frames and the Astros bullpen gave up six runs in a span of three outs, enabling the Rockies to flip a three-run deficit into a three-run lead.
There were a number of defensive miscues, including a trio by the normally reliable Jose Altuve.
The Astros were able to overcome all of that, thanks largely to an offensive explosion highlighted by two home runs from Yuli Gurriel, and stretched their winning streak to four games in a wild 9-8 victory over the Rockies.
The Astros got the scoring started right away, a rarity in the last two weeks. George Springer, who is hitting over .300 in interleague play during his career, led off the game with a single to center. Springer advanced 180 feet on an errant pickoff throw that ricocheted into rightfield. A sacrifice fly by Alex Bregman put the Astros on the board first, only the third time that’s happened in their last 15 games.
The Rockies responded with two straight doubles with two outs to tie the game in the bottom of the first, and the back-and-forth night was just beginning.
Gurriel hit his first homer of the night, and ninth of the season, one batter into the second inning to regain the lead for the Astros.
Yuli is en fuego, and you probably know by now it’s a good omen when he logs an RBI.
The Rockies tied it again in the bottom half of the second after they hit consecutive singles to place runners at first and third with no outs. A wild pitch from Urquidy allowed Ian Desmond to score, but the Astros’ starter was able to record a couple strikeouts to escape the inning.
Springer and Jose Altuve responded with consecutive singles of their own to open the third inning, and both scored on Michael Brantley’s double over Desmond’s head in centerfield. Gurriel followed with an RBI double down the line in right to stretch the Astros lead to 5-2.
Urquidy recorded the first clean inning of the game for either side in his portion of the third and nearly got through the fourth (and may have, if not for a defensive miscue by Altuve), but AJ Hinch didn’t want to see him face the Rockies’ lineup for a third time with leadoff man Charlie Blackmon coming to the plate.
Urquidy wasn’t stellar, lasting 3 2⁄3 innings in his Big-League debut and allowing two runs on six hits with four strikeouts, but he minimized damage and left with a three-run lead.
Jose Urquidy on his Major League debut pic.twitter.com/sYWrPbIPAV— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) July 3, 2019
He also appeared to offer different looks with his release point to hitters, though I’m not sure if that was intentional or a lapse in mechanics (which would be perfectly understandable, considering the nerves Urquidy probably experienced while making his MLB debut).
Josh James relieved Urquidy and struck out Blackmon swinging with a changeup to strand two runners and preserve the lead.
Of course, it’s Coors Field—where the Rockies are averaging seven runs per game this season—so you knew Colorado wasn’t done.
All-Stars Trevor Story and David Dahl opened the fifth with singles and fellow All-Star Nolan Arenado walked on four pitches to load the bases with nobody out. Another walk from James brought in a run to cut the Astros’ lead to 5-3.
Desmond smoked a two-run double the other way—his third hit of the night—to tie the game, 5-5, and there were still no outs. Ryan McMahon followed with an RBI groundout to give the Rockies their first lead of the night. With the infield drawn in, Tony Wolters hit a ball right to Altuve, but his throw home was offline and Desmond scored to push the Rockies lead to 7-5. In all, the Rockies rattled James for five runs in the fifth.
The Rockies loaded the bases again with nobody out in the sixth inning against Will Harris, due in part to Altuve’s third defensive mistake of the evening. With a man aboard, Story lined a ball right at Altuve, who couldn’t make the catch (one he’d likely say he should make). Another hit by Dahl loaded the bases for Arenado, who hit a tapper to Bregman. His throw home was wide, pulling Robinson Chirinos off the plate, and the Rockies scored their sixth run in the last three outs to take a three-run advantage.
However, Harris turned a big double play on a comebacker and the Astros retired Desmond for first time all night to get out of the inning with minimal damage.
The back-and-forth evening was in full effect, and showing no signs of letting up—a good thing for the Astros.
The Rockies inserted reliever Bryan Shaw to start the seventh inning and he was greeted with three straight doubles by Springer, Altuve, and Bregman to bring the Astros within one run, 8-7. The double was Altuve’s third hit of the night, his second game in a row with three hits. The offensive output from Altuve makes it easier to disregard the defensive miscues, especially when he’s mentioned in the same sentence as the only other Astros in the HOF.
According to @RealToddKalas Jose Altuve now has 142-career three-hit games, one better than Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell, second-best in franchise history behind Hall of Famer Craig Biggio.— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) July 3, 2019
The killshot came from Gurriel later in the inning, when he slugged his second homer of the game to put the Astros back on top, 9-8. The longball was Gurriel’s tenth of the season and he was the fourth of the Astros’ last five batters to record extra-base hits.
Again, Yuli is on fire.
Yuli Gurriel is hitting .414 in his last seven games pic.twitter.com/oKEiuiFgER— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) July 3, 2019
And his fury was the final peak in this rollercoaster of a game.
Chris Devenski worked around a walk to pitch a scoreless seventh for the Astros. Ryan Pressly tossed a perfect eighth against the heart of the Rockies’ order and Roberto Osuna closed things out in the ninth in his first save attempt since a 4-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on June 9.
The Astros continue to be virtually unbeatable when Gurriel records an RBI.
The Astros have won 32 of their last 33 and 44 of their last 46 games that Yuli Gurriel had an RBI. https://t.co/AaBtzqXmnD— Jeremy Frank (@MLBRandomStats) July 3, 2019
Altuve added a single in the ninth inning, his fourth hit of the game.
Harris (3-1, 1.44) earned the win for the Astros and Osuna collected his 18th save. German Marquez started for the Rockies and went six innings even though he gave up five runs in his first seven outs. Marquez allowed eight hits and struck out seven. Jake McGee (0-1, 1.89) took his first loss of the season.
Coors Field has averaged about 14 runs/game this season, and the two clubs exceeded that number with no outs in the top of the seventh.
Scott Oberg pitched two scoreless innings for the Rockies. Shaw didn’t record an out for the Rockies and allowed three runs on three hits.
Box score and videos here.
The Astros wrap up their brief two-game set in Colorado with the Rockies Wednesday when Wade Miley (6-4, 3.39) toes the rubber against rookie Peter Lambert (2-0, 6.57). Miley took a no-decision in Friday’s extra-inning win against the Seattle Mariners. He allowed just a solo homer and three hits with two walks and two strikeouts across six innings. Miley has allowed only eight runs in his last four starts. Lambert gave up five runs on nine hits in 4 2⁄3 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers in his last start and took a no-decision. He’s allowed 16 runs over his last three starts and has failed to eclipse five innings in any of those outings, though he hasn’t taken a loss. First pitch is slated for 7:10 CT.