The Astros rolled into Los Angeles for the start of their final series of the 2019 regular season with something of an unusual look. Fourth starter Wade Miley, who’s been struggling as of late, was on the hill, and as many starters as possible were on the bench, with Alex Bregman DHing and Abraham Toro, Jack Mayfield, Kyle Tucker, Martin Maldonado, Aledmys Diaz, and Myles Straw (in his first start at second) all in the starting lineup.
In spite of that, they put up a good fight. Things looked a little shaky at first for Miley; after a walk and single, Kevan Smith got several 2-strike reprieves on narrow checked swings and foul tips before launching a double into left-center field to bring in both runners. The second saw them pad the lead to 3-0 when leadoff hitter Brian Goodwin doubled (and was pulled for a pinch runner after injuring himself), with a fielders choice and sac fly bringing in the run.
Of course, even when most of the regulars are out, the Astros can still score runs. Kyle Tucker hit his fourth home run with one out in the fourth to begin the scoring. Then, one inning later, Jack Mayfield followed up a leadoff walk with his second homer of the season to tie things up. And that homer even came immediately after he ended the bottom of the fourth with a nice play at short.
Things were definitely looking up at that point. Angels starter Jaime Barria left the game that inning due to a blister, exposing a bullpen that’s normally best described as “questionable”, and the bats looked like they were starting to wake up.
Except…that was it. They’d put plenty of runners on from that point, they just repeatedly failed to drive any of them in. In the sixth, a leadoff walk and single immediately lead into a double play and pop up.
The following inning, a pair of one-out singles were hung out to dry when Alex Bregman and Tucker both struck out to new pitcher Luis Garcia.
The inning after that saw Diaz get hit by a pitch and Reddick single. Toro grounded one right to second base, only for Goodwin’s sub Kean Wong to misplay the ball and only get one out. Pinch hitter Yordan Álvarez worked a walk, then pinch hitter George Springer hit a double play ball that wasn’t booted.
In the tenth, Reddick worked his magic again to get a two-out single, then Toro managed to walk on a full count, but pinch runner & defensive sub Garrett Stubbs struck out to end the threat.
In the eleventh, Straw and defensive sub Jake Marisnick singled with one out, Alex Bregman walked to load the bases, and all were stranded.
In the twelfth, Reddick doubled to lead off the inning, giving him his second career 5-5 game (after the one in Kansas City two weeks ago). After two outs, Springer and Straw walked to load the bases again, but an impatient Marisnick whiffed on four pitches.
Unfortunately, the Astros’ offense wouldn’t get another chance after missing so many. The pitching had solidified after that shaky start. Miley finished with two quiet innings, ending the night with five hits, two walks, and two Ks in a 3-run, 4.0 inning outing. From there, the bullpen looked solid, with Brad Peacock, Bryan Abreu, Joe Smith, Josh James, Héctor Rondón, and Chris Devenski stringing together seven innings of five-K, two-hit, one-walk baseball.
But that wouldn’t hold forever. Joe Biagini walked the leadoff runner in the twelfth, but in a confusing play, the Astros were unable to throw out Kaleb Cowart at second despite the runner apparently forgetting to slide. The Astros almost escaped from there, with a strike out and a fielders choice.
Unfortunately, Andrelton Simmons hit a hard ground ball to first base, where Kyle Tucker had been moved in the shuffle of substitutions. Maybe Yuli or Aledmys would have been able to handle it, but Kyle was not.
There were some good individual performances along the way. Obviously, there was Josh’s 5-6 night (with a double and four singles). Myles went 3-6 with a walk in the leadoff spot. Bregman went 0-4 in his quest for the AL MVP, but did take over the MLB lead in walks by taking his 113th and 114th on the year. Plus, there was the strong bullpen performance.
But the 1-13 performance with runners in scoring position and 17 total runners left on base made them especially susceptible to losing on a fluke, and two bizarre plays in the twelfth were all it took to drop the first in a four game set to the Angels.
The loss drops the Astros’ record on the year to 104-55. The Yankees, who didn’t play, are two full games behind the Astros with three left to play, so one more Yankees loss or Astros win clinches them top seed in the AL. The Dodgers are just 1.0 game back, though, so Houston can’t rest easy just yet. Game 160 starts tomorrow at 9 PM Central time, with Jose Urquidy facing off against Patrick Sandoval.