As recently as a few days ago, it appeared laughable that Lance Lynn would face the Houston Astros on Sept. 3, three days after the trade deadline. But 4 p.m. Eastern on Monday came and went and Lynn was still a member of the Texas Rangers, who opted to keep their ace. The Astros then had to gear up to face one of the toughest pitchers in the game, as he had pitched at least six innings in seven of his eight starts this year, allowing two earned runs or less in all but one of them. Enough numbers for you? Let’s just say Houston is glad Lynn took the mound on Thursday afternoon, because their potent offense saddled him with his worst outing of the season before the first inning was completed. This explosion turned out to be pivotal as the Astros defeated the Rangers 8-4 for Houston’s sixth consecutive home series victory.
Zack Greinke shut down the rivals from Arlington in order to begin the game, then the Astros bats immediately caught fire. George Springer, Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley all singled, giving the home team a 1-0 lead after just four pitches from Lynn. After a pair of outs, Aledmys Diaz stepped in and smashed a clutch three-run homer to left, his first long ball of the season - this being just his fourth contest. It marked the first time Lynn had given up at least four earned runs in a GAME since last Sept. 17 against the Astros - 11 starts ago. More Lynn stats to come later.
Greinke was not overly sharp in this one, but was still able to produce a quality start. His primary nemesis on the day was Nick Solak, who went 3-for-3 against the Astros ace, with all hits coming of the leadoff variety - a pair of doubles and a single. He scored on all three occasions - courtesy of a two-bagger by Jose Trevino in the second, a very shallow bloop single off the bat of Elvis Andrus in the fourth, and another Trevino RBI in the sixth - this one coming on a groundout. Greinke did record nine punchouts (a season-high) and walked only one batter.
Greinke tells Andrus nice take on 2-2— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) September 3, 2020
Then strikes him out with a 70 mph breaker.
He's a national treasure. pic.twitter.com/s7xxCSbLTQ
Kyle Tucker took advantage of the shift in the fifth inning to extend Houston’s lead. With runners on the corners and one out, Texas put three infielders on the right side of second base. Tucker calmly escorted a ball through the 5-6 hole for a base hit to plate Abraham Toro and make it 5-2. After the Rangers picked up their third run of the afternoon in the sixth, Martin Maldonado muscled up to begin the bottom half, going opposite-field for a solo blast to right and making it a three-run lead yet again.
Despite turning in his worst outing in nearly a calendar year, Lynn showed his remarkable durability by once again working deep into a game. He pitched six innings, making it 37 consecutive appearances in which he tossed five or more frames. Perhaps even more incredible, Lynn threw over 100 pitches for the 33rd outing in a row, with the last non-occurrence coming on May 16, 2019 with a 91-pitch job against the Royals over seven innings. However, the category that matters is what shows on the scoreboard, and the six runs surrendered by Lynn were the most since last Aug. 23 when he was battered by the White Sox for seven.
Houston’s bullpen performed solidly in the final three frames. Cy Sneed retired the first four batters he faced before surrendering a home run to Shin-Soo Choo. With two outs in the inning, Cionel Perez entered and issued a walk and a base hit before inducing Ronald Guzman to ground out and preserve the two-run lead. Blake Taylor worked a hitless ninth to seal the victory and send the Astros on the road.
Maldonado connected on his second extra-base hit of the day - a double to left-center to start the bottom of the eighth. He moved to third on a one-out single by Springer and another out later, Rangers manager Chris Woodward brought in right-hander Luis Garcia to face Michael Brantley. The Astros designated hitter did a great job of going with the pitch, casually gliding a two-run double down the left-field line, making it 8-4 and putting the icing on the cake.
Despite the victory, the injury bug continued to bite the Astros as Altuve experienced right knee discomfort after sliding into third base in the first inning.
Oh no. No no no.— Michael Schwab (@michaelschwab13) September 3, 2020
Looks like Altuve racked himself on third base pic.twitter.com/6VaWfOVfx7
He was removed from the game before the third, when Toro entered to play second base and Diaz shifted from third to second.
The Astros will now hit the road for a whopper of a road trip - 11 games in 10 days in the state of California. It will begin with four games over three days in Anaheim this weekend, including a doubleheader on Saturday to make up from the final game of the Astros/Angels series last week that was postponed in preparation for Hurricane Laura. A five-game series over four days in Oakland comes next week, with a Sept. 8 twinbill necessary after a member of the A’s organization tested positive for COVID-19 in Houston last Sunday, wiping out that series finale. After a rare Friday day off, the Astros and Dodgers will renew hostilities for a two-game set at Dodger Stadium.