It was a thrilling finish on Tuesday night as the Astros and Rangers traded leads into extra innings after what looked like a bit of a pitcher’s duel early on. Things got off to an inauspicious start for Houston, as starter Framber Valdez was a bit of a mess in the first inning. He hit leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo, who then stole second base before coming home on a throwing error by Valdez on a ball hit by Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Framber then lost a pitch allowing Kiner-Falefa to advance to third base, but did record a strikeout of Jose Trevino in the same plate appearance. He then walked Joey Gallo before promptly allowing a base hit to Nick Solak, scoring Kiner-Falefa and moving Gallo over to third. Valdez then came up big by inducing a double play ball from Elvis Andrus to end the inning with the score at 2-0, Texas.
The Astros were able to put a couple of men on with a base hit and a walk against Rangers opener Luis Garcia, but he escaped the jam to preserve the lead. Framber Valdez quickly put his first inning struggles in the rearview, firing a quick 1-2-3 second inning, bringing former top Astros prospect Jordan Lyles out of the bullpen for Texas. Lyles got three straight groundouts in the second, the first of several stellar frames for him on the evening. Valdez responded with a clean third inning, working around a two out walk, turning things over to the offense in the third.
After Dustin Garneau was retired leading off the inning, George Springer drew a walk and advanced on an infield hit by Jose Altuve, his first of three on the night. A fly ball by Michael Brantley then moved Springer to third with two outs, but Yuli Gurriel grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the threat. Valdez’s fourth inning started with another hit from Solak, but just like in the first inning, it was followed by a double play ball off the bat of Elvis Andrus, creating a bases empty, two out situation. Valdez complicated things by walking Leody Taveras, and then allowed a triple to Ronald Guzman which scored Taveras and pushed the Texas lead to 3-0.
After Valdez came up with a strikeout of rookie Eli White to end the top of the fourth, Lyles continued to cruise, retiring the Astros in order in the bottom. Framber then worked around a hit by Kiner-Falefa in the fifth, retiring the three other hitters he faced in the frame. The Astros hard luck against Lyles dragged into the fifth inning as well, as he quickly retired Abraham Toro, Garneau and Springer, giving him seven consecutive outs at that point. Not to be outdone, Valdez had a 1-2-3 inning of his own immediately after, keeping the Astros within striking distance.
It was in the sixth that the Astros finally got a bit of offense going against Lyles, with Jose Altuve leading off the inning with a single, and then advancing to second on a groundout by Michael Brantley to create a scoring chance. Yuli Gurriel skied a ball for a popout, but Kyle Tucker came through with a single that unfortunately did not score Altuve. The decision to hold him at third paid off though, as Carlos Correa produced the third hit of the inning to bring Altuve home. Josh Reddick then struck out to end the inning, but the Astros had finally shifted the momentum a bit.
Valdez’s strong night continued into the seventh, as he sat down all three Rangers that came to the plate in the frame, bringing Lyles back out to the mound for the bottom of the inning. Abraham Toro delivered a leadoff single, and Garneau followed it up with an infield hit of his own, prompting Lyles’ exit. Nick Goody came on to relieve him, and it looked for a moment like he might escape the jam when he retired George Springer and Jose Altuve, but Michael Brantley came through with a go ahead three run shot to spoil Lyles’ stellar line. Goody rebounded by striking out Yuli Gurriel, but the damage had already been done. Enoli Paredes was called upon for the eighth and got into a bit of trouble, putting the first two batters on by way of a single and a walk, but he then got Joey Gallo to fly out and escaped the jam by inducing a double play off the bat of Nick Solak, continuing his stellar rookie season.
The Astros went down quietly against Jonathan Hernandez in the eighth, carrying a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning. Ryan Pressly was entrusted with the save opportunity, which quickly went up in flames as Elvis Andrus lifted a short home run to left to tie the game. Pressly then retired three out of four Rangers to preserve the tie, but the Astros losing a ninth inning lead had already shifted the momentum back in the Rangers’ favor. Hernandez stayed on the mound for the ninth inning, and Abraham Toro delivered his second hit of the night to lead off the inning, and Martin Maldonado was asked to bunt him over with no outs, which he did successfully. This brought George Springer to the plate, and he grounded out after a battle with Hernandez to bring Altuve to the plate. It had been a solid night at the dish for Altuve, and he worked the count full against Hernandez, but eventually grounded out himself to send the game to extras.
Things turned comical in the 10th, as Scott Heineman started the inning on second and advanced on a leadoff groundout. What happened next was inexplicable and beyond frustrating, as hurler Blake Taylor was called for a questionable balk to score the go ahead run. Carlos Correa then made his first error in ages to put a runner on, who then ended up scoring on a bunt after Martin Maldonado badly misfired trying to rush a throw to first. This prompted Taylor’s exit, and Andre Scrubb came in and induced a flyout to end the inning, mercifully.
Rafael Montero came on for the save opportunity in the 10th, but things got interesting in a hurry as Michael Brantley led off with a line drive single to score Jose Altuve from second. Yuli Gurriel then came to the plate, and continued his awful night by grounding into a taylor made double play. Kyle Tucker came up with a chance to tie the game with a homer, but hit a slicing fly ball that was tracked down in left to end the game. It was a frustrating finish to a game that the Astros had every opportunity to win, with or without the balk call in the 10th. They’ll be back at it tomorrow in a favorable pitching matchup, with Cristian Javier facing off against Kolby Allard and his 6.50 ERA.