Zac Gallen is some no-name pitcher and the Astros should have no problem with him, right? Anyone who thinks that has been too broke to pay attention to baseball this year. Despite being hit around in his last two outings, he has been one of baseball’s best, entering Friday’s outing with a tidy 3.15 ERA in ten starts. Houston was able to take an early lead against Arizona’s ace right-hander, but he settled down and Kole Calhoun later proved to be a major problem in the Diamondbacks’ 6-3 victory at Minute Maid Park.
A fair summary of the Astros early offense on Friday would be good, but not great. They loaded the bases with nobody out against Gallen in the first inning, but only managed a single run when George Springer crossed home on a wild pitch. Two frames later, Kyle Tucker delivered a two-out RBI double to plate Jose Altuve, but Yuli Gurriel was caught looking for the final out to leave two ducks in scoring position.
In the offseason, Houston fans were probably pleased to see longtime Astro-killer Kole Calhoun leave the Angels in favor of the Diamondbacks. However, they were reminded of the damage Calhoun can do for the second time this year when he launched a go-ahead three-run homer to right off Zack Greinke in the fourth. Calhoun previously beat the Astros on Aug. 6 in Phoenix with a walk-off double.
Greinke pitched against Arizona for the first time since departing at last year’s trade deadline. He made 114 career starts in a Diamondbacks uniform dating back to 2016.
Springer quickly answered with a no-doubt solo shot into the Crawford Boxes to start the fifth, tying the contest at 3. Why not just rename the seats in left field the Springer Boxes with how often he has launched balls out there?
The Astros had a golden chance to retake the lead in the sixth when Tucker led off with a single and later stole second base, but Gallen retired Carlos Correa and Josh Reddick with Tucker in scoring position to keep matters square.
Things once again got messy in the seventh, this time with Luis Garcia on the mound. He had been brilliant in his first three big-league appearances (two hits in 10.1 IP) and worked a scoreless sixth Friday, but Arizona got to him in the next frame. Nick Ahmed led off with an infield hit and scored when 2017 first-round pick Pavin Smith ripped a triple. Smith immediately scored on a wild pitch, then Daulton Varsho doubled to right. Lefty Blake Taylor came in from the bullpen and did a nice job to keep the deficit at two runs.
Calhoun did it again in the top of the eighth, this time opting for some lefty-on-lefty crime as he ended Taylor’s night with a bomb, making it 6-3 in favor of the Snakes.
Arizona’s bullpen was untouchable, as the Astros only baserunner against the relief core came on a two-out double by Altuve in the seventh. Michael Brantley is the man you would want at the plate representing the tying run, but he was retired on a weak tapper to third and a rally never amounted. Stefan Crichton retired the side on eight pitches in the ninth for his third save of the campaign.
Tucker and Brantley each finished 2-for-4 while Springer scored two runs. Andre Scrubb provided a bright spot out of the bullpen, fanning two batters in 1.2 scoreless frames.
Houston dropped to 25-26 on the season but looks good to remain three games ahead of third-place Seattle in the AL West, as the Mariners trailed San Diego 5-0 at publication time. A second-place division finish will guarantee a top-six seed in the expanded postseason.
It is looking like the Oakland Athletics will be crowned division champs by the end of the weekend, as they were blasting San Francisco 6-0 and seemed poised to drop their magic number to two.
The Astros will look to keep pace in the postseason picture tomorrow behind strong surprise Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22), who will get the ball against Arizona’s Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70). First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT in Houston.