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Astros Unravel in Eighth, Fall to Yankees

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The Astros bullpen depth was pushed beyond its limits Wednesday night, culminating in a late inning collapse.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros hung with the Bronx Bombers for much of Wednesday night’s contest in a hostile Yankee Stadium, but ultimately saw their bullpen depth run out. At times dominant, rookie starter Luis Garcia performed admirably through the jeers at Yankee stadium, but inefficiency marred an otherwise strong outing, saddling the pen with an assignment that improved incapable of fulfilling.

While the Astros were unable to muster much of anything in the top of the first, the game nonetheless started auspiciously, as Garcia fired a brilliant first inning, striking out the side of DJ LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. Not to be outdone, Yankees starter answered with a three-K inning of his own in the second, turning things back over to Garcia quickly. He managed another efficient frame, retiring three consecutive batters after issuing a full count leadoff walk to Gio Urshela.

The pace began to slow in the third inning. The Astros created a threat in the top of the frame when Aledmys Diaz and Myles Straw started things off with back to back hits, but the momentum was dashed when Jason Castro grounded into a double play and Jose Altuve grounded out with Diaz on third. It looked as though Garcia would continue to cruise after he retired the first two Yankees in the third, but he plunked DJ LeMahieu with a 1-0 offering, which ultimately proved very costly as Giancarlo Stanton followed with a two run homer. Garcia recovered with a strikeout of Aaron Judge, but turned things over to the offense with a 2-0 deficit.

That apparently didn’t sit well with the Astros bats, as they answered with an impressive five hit barrage that ended with three runs scoring. Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman started the inning with another pair of singles, and Yordan Alvarez followed with a line drive that deflected off of Montgomery for another hit, but no RBI. Carlos Correa followed and made the first out of the inning, but his ground ball to the right side allowed Brantley to come home from third, cutting the Yankees lead to 2-1.

That brought Yuli Gurriel to the plate, and he continued his excellent start to the season with a loud double into left field, bringing home Bregman. Correa, hot on his tail, was sent around third, but was nailed at the plate by Brett Gardner for the second out. It was a questionable decision, and proved to be an especially poor one when Aledmys Diaz came up next and laced another double to score Gurriel. Myles Straw then made the third out in the form of a liner to center, and the inning ended with the score a precarious 3-2.

Garcia took the ball for the bottom of the fourth after a long break, and while he was able to retire the side in order again, he labored a bit, going to full counts on each of the three hitters he faced, ending with a strikeout of Mike Ford. The 9-1-2 portion of the Astros lineup went down in similar fashion in the top of the 5th, and Garcia returned to the mound. He induced a shallow flyout from leadoff man Aaron Hicks, and followed with a strikeout of Gary Sanchez in a 2-2 count, but came a bit unglued from there.

After falling behind 2-0 to Brett Gardner, Garcia surrendered a hard single off of the glove of Jose Altuve, and missed in a full count to DJ LeMahieu to put a runner in scoring position. With his rookie starter up to 92 pitches, Dusty Baker went to Ryne Stanek, who promptly allowed a double to Giancarlo Stanton, evening the score at three before the inning ended on another Aaron Judge strikeout.

The Astros were again unable to muster any offense in the sixth, again going down in order, and Stanek was entrusted with the home half. He allowed leadoff batter Gio Urshela aboard on an infield hit, but rebounded with two quick flyouts and looked like he might escape quickly. However, things turned tense when Aaron Hicks drove a double to right, pushing Urshela to third. Stanek would walk Gary Sanchez to load the bases, but was able to force a popout from Brett Gardner to keep the score tied.

For the top of the 7th, Aaron Boone went to his bullpen and Luis Cessa, who quickly got two outs before walking Myles Straw to create a bit of a threat with plus speed aboard, but it was quickly neutralized by a Jason Castro strikeout. Running out of reliable arms in the pen, Baker had to go to Bryan Abreu next, and things quickly got hairy when the first two men to the plate reached base on a hit and walk respectively, but Aaron Judge went down for another of his four strikeouts on the night next, and Abreu induced a tailor-made double play ball off of the bat of Urshela to end the inning.

With jeers raining from the stands in the eighth, the Astros went down in order for the fourth time on the night, unable to solve Yankees reliever Jonathan Loaisiga. Baker went to Brooks Raley next, and things unfolded predictably. Gleyber Torres led off with a solid single to left, and Raley walked Clint Frazier, pinch hitting for Ford, to put Torres in scoring position. Aaron Hicks followed with a single, scoring Torres and putting the Yankees ahead, prompting Dusty to pull Raley in favor of Joe Smith, who fared no better.

Smith started by plunking Gary Sanchez to load the bases, which was followed by a sac fly from Gardner to extend the lead to 5-3. Smith then got a bit of a gift from DJ LeMahieu, who weakly grounded a 3-1 pitch to first, allowing the Astros to nab Sanchez at second for the second out, but he then surrendered a hard single to Stanton to bring home the third run of the inning. Smith would get Aaron Judge swinging to complete his Golden Sombrero, but the damage was more than done. Aroldis Chapman came out of the pen and worked a perfect ninth with two Ks, completing a series for New York.

The loss was the Astros third straight, and drops them back to 15-15, third place in the AL West. They trail first place Oakland by 3.5 games, and will send Lance McCullers Jr. to the bump for a 12:05 start tomorrow as they look to avoid a sweep.