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Astros Drop Shootout with Washington, 10-9

Brantley, Bregman go yard but bullpen falters late

MLB: ALCS-Houston Astros at Tampa Bay Rays Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros brought a 3-9 record into today’s tilt with the Nationals, and looked like they might be able to improve on that mark for much of the day before ultimately falling in a close matchup.

Young gun Luis Garcia got the ball for the Astros, and was greeted with a barrage of hits that prevented him from finishing the first inning. It was the first appearance of spring for Garcia, who has been on the shelf due to COVID protocols, so some rust was understandable. It’s worth noting that despite the poor hit and run totals, Garcia did manage to strikeout 3 against 1 walk in his outing, and returned to the game in the 2nd inning which he finished cleanly, so there’s something to build on there.

The Astros, on the other hand, were unable to solve Nats starter Paolo Espino, who went two clean frames before turning things over to the bullpen, allowing just one unearned run on an infield error. With new faces on the mound, Houston found a spark, clocking back to back home runs in the third off of the bats of Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman, bringing the Astros within two runs at 5-3.

The Nationals would add a run in the fourth in the form of a Victor Robles leadoff homer off of Andre Scrubb, prompting the entrance of Francis Martes, who threw two shutout frames. The Astros offense then popped in the fifth, starting with five consecutive hits against journeyman stopper Javy Guerra. The rally ended up producing six runs, putting the Astros ahead 9-6 entering the latter frames.

After a scoreless sixth on both sides, the Astros bullpen ran into trouble again in the seventh, as veteran Josh Harrison connected on a two run home run to bring the Nats within one of the lead. After another quiet frame in the eighth, the Nats put together a ninth inning rally, eventually scoring the go-ahead run on an RBI groundout. The Astros were unable to answer, ending in a 10-9 defeat.

The home runs by Brantley and Bregman were the first for each player this spring. The Astros will look to get back in the W column tomorrow at 12:05 local time against the Cardinals.