There were good vibes in the air early in the Astros’ tilt with their rivals to the north on Friday, as the club sent rookie and local kid Tyler Ivey to the hill for his first big league appearance. Ivey, a former 3rd round pick who once attended Texas A&M, got the nod despite a scant track record over the last few years and a so-so start to the season at Triple-A, and handled the opportunity with aplomb.
Ivey got off on the right foot early, recording a rapid 1-2-3 first inning on a trio of flyouts, and when he returned to the dugout the Astros rewarded him with a bit of offense. Yordan Alvarez opened the frame and was hit by a full count offering, which Yuli Gurriel followed with a walk. Kyle Tucker flew out to center for the first out, but advanced Alvarez, and Aledmys Diaz was able to bring him home by beating out a would-be double play ball at first. Jason Castro looked to keep the rally going with a base hit, but Myles Straw would ground out to end the inning.
Ivey continued his string of air outs in the second, popping up Joey Gallo and getting Adolis Garcia to center, before recording his first big league strikeout on David Dahl, who took strike three. Kyle Gibson worked around a one out single in the top of the third, sending Ivey back out in a hurry. He retired his seventh consecutive batter on a groundout to second to open the third, but missed his spot to Brock Holt, who punished him with a solo homer. Surely disappointed to give up the tying run, Ivey maintained his composure and induced a groundout off the bat of Jose Trevino for the second out, which made the Willie Calhoun single that followed much less threatening. He’d get Nick Solak on another flyout to escape with the score still tied.
Gibson continued to work quickly in his half of the fourth, getting two quick outs to open the frame. Aledmys Diaz followed with a double, but Jason Castro was unable to Castro, and Ivey was back to work. After getting out ahead of Nate Lowe, Ivey couldn’t close him out and surrendered a single. He again got ahead in the count 0-2 against the next hitter, Joey Gallo, but ultimately ended up walking him on one of home plate umpire Doug Eddings’ numerous unacceptable calls on the evening to create a scoring threat. The Rangers quickly capitalized on the opportunity when Adolis Garcia went way down to get a pretty well-placed breaking ball from Ivey and shot it into the gap for a double, scoring two. However, Garcia attempted to stretch his hit into a triple and was nailed on a heads up play by Ivey to help himself out.
The extra base hit put the Rangers ahead 3-1, but the out at third gave Ivey a clean slate to work with in the inning, and he responded by striking out David Dahl for the second time. He then got a soft ground ball from Kiner-Falefa, but Jose Altuve was unable to handle it working to his left in shallow right. It was ruled a single, but could’ve gone either way, and Ivey followed it with a strikeout of Brock Holt. Kiner-Falefa, running on the pitch was gunned down at second by Jason Castro, and Ivey was out of the mess.
The Astros were again unable to solve the red hot Kyle Gibson in the fifth, managing just a two out walk from Brantley before sending Ivey back out one last time. He surrendered a leadoff hit up the middle, but recovered quickly with two quick flyouts, one of which advanced the runner to second. Dusty Baker then went to Kent Emanuel for the upcoming pair of lefties, and Ivey departed having allowed 3 runs in 4 and 2/3, responsible for a runner on second. It was a gutsy performance from the rook, who seemed a bit reticent to go to his trademark curveball and was only working 89-91 with his heater, which is under his typical range. Despite being without his best stuff, he proved capable of navigating some difficult situations, showed a bit of all of his four pitch mix and should be able to build on his solid outing as he gets some more work under his belt.
While the decision to go with Emanuel was a logical one, it backfired when both Lowe and Gallo reached base on a hit and walk respectively, scoring Trevino from second. He’d get Adolis Garcia on a popout, but turned things over to the offense with a 4-1 deficit. Gibson again cut through the lineup like butter, allowing just a single two out baserunner in a quick frame. Baker sent Emanuel back out to face Dahl, who grounded out, before pulling him in favor of Joe Smith, who had a typically adventurous outing from a command perspective but ended up retiring both batters he faced.
Gibson’s night was finally done at this point, and the Astros offense seemed happy to get a piece of the Rangers bullpen in the seventh as Castro led things off with a hit, but Straw and Altuve were retired in order next. Brantley tried to get a rally going with a single of his own, which forced a pitching change by Chris Woodward, who sent Hunter Wood to the hill. Wood walked Bregman to load the bases, but ended up getting Yordan Alvarez on a good two strike breaking ball to dispel the threat.
Brandon Bielak was entrusted with the 7th, and had a rock solid outing against some of the Rangers’ better hitters. After surrendering a leadoff hit to Jose Trevino, he retired the side in order, including strikeouts of Solak and Lowe, and made a strong case for some higher leverage work. It would be in the top of the eighth that the Astros offense finally broke through, with a one out Tucker single starting the party. Carlos Correa, who entered the game for an injured Diaz, came to the plate next and tallied an RBI with a hard double, cutting the lead to two before Jason Castro followed with a decidedly less hard double, scoring Correa and continuing the opportunity. Myles Straw would line out next, and Woodward called to the pen and Ian Kennedy to face Jose Altuve. The star second baseman delivered a base hit, scoring Castro and tying the game.
Michael Brantley would fly out to end the inning, but the pendulum had already swung hard in the Astros’ favor. Brooks Raley entered and had perhaps his most uneventful outing of the year, recording three outs in quick succession including a swinging strikeout of Gallo. The Astros came to the plate in the ninth looking to stake closer Ryan Pressly, already warming a lead and the opportunity for a save, but were down to their last out in the inning quickly after a flyout and groundout from Bregman and Alvarez. Yuli mustered a two out hit to keep things alive, and Tucker followed with a soft liner to Brock Holt which he booted directly to Ian Kennedy, who was very nearly able to nail Tucker at first. Thinking the ball would be caught, Tucker didn’t take off running out of the box, leading to a bang-bang play which was upheld on review. This would bring Carlos Correa to the plate with the go ahead run on second, but he hit an unthreatening fly ball to center to end the inning.
Pressly would come out of the pen for the ninth, and allowed a leadoff hit to Kiner-Falefa to create a bit of drama. He’d induce a flyout from Holt to bring up Trevino, during whose plate appearance Kiner-Falefa swiped second with the help of a high throw by Castro. Unfazed, Pressly finished a strikeout of Trevino and then got Calhoun on a soft fly, finishing the frame in just ten pitches.
The Astros’ 10th got off to an inauspicious start when Castro struck out to lead it off, but Myles Straw then grinded out a magnificent 13 pitch walk that included 7 foul balls. This proved all important, as Altuve came up next and pounced on an 0-1 pitch for a ground ball to third, but Brock Holt threw wide to second trying to turn two, allowing a run to score and Straw to advance to third. Brantley and Bregman would go down to end the inning, but the Astros were nonetheless in good position to close out a win heading to the bottom.
Despite the low pitch count for Pressly, Baker elected to go with Bryan Abreu for the tenth in a puzzling move. It’s easy to armchair manager in such situations, but the decision proved especially painful when it unfolded exactly as many fans feared. Abreu got Solak to fly out to lead off the inning, but the ball had enough on it to advance the runner to third, creating a very precarious situation. Nate Lowe came to the plate and Abreu got him swinging on a nice breaking ball, but he failed to throw Joey Gallo much of anything close, bringing Adolis Garcia to the dish with runners on the corners. After missing up with a heater on the first pitch, Abreu grooved one down the pipe at 95, and Garcia promptly deposited into the left field seats for a walk off shot.
It was a frustrating loss, as Ivey had given the team a good chance to win in an emergency start. When questioned about the decision to go to Abreu for the 10th, Baker stated that he didn’t want to go to Pressly for a second inning to maintain his availability for upcoming games, and he certainly doesn’t have an enviable task in trying to navigate contests like this one with the club’s current level of bullpen depth. The Astros and Rangers will run it back tomorrow in an afternoon affair— Cristian Javier will be opposed by Michael Foltynewicz for a 2:05 start.