Now in their 61st season, one of their first 60 stood out as the Houston Astros absolute worst.
By a wide margin, the 2013 Houston Astros were the most dreadful team put out by the franchise at the major league level, including their expansion days. At 51-111, their season-ending .315 winning percentage and 45 games behind first both rank as club worst marks.
Using random.org, I generated a random year from 1962 to 2021, landing on 2013. I found the game played on this date that season, and honed in on the most “impactful” plate appearance.
The Houston Astros entered the contest on June 20, 2013 with a record of 27-46, the worst record in the American League and 15 1⁄2 games behind the AL West-leading Oakland Athletics. Their foe on this particular date was the Milwaukee Brewers, who weren’t doing very well either. At 29-41, they were tied for last in the National League Central, 16 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Brewers were relying on Yovani Gallardo (6-6, 4.41), in the seventh season of an eventual 12-season major league career. Houston had Lucas Harrell (5-7, 4.48) in his fourth major league season out of an eventual seven. You probably remember a lot of Houston’s starting lineup, but only Jason Castro and Jose Altuve remain from that iteration of the team. There were 17,796 on hand at Minute Maid Park to see the Thursday matchup.
Setting the Scene
Milwaukee got to Harrell in the second inning, when Aramis Ramirez, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Scooter Gennett all crossed the plate on two separate two-out errors for a 3-0 Brewers lead. The Astros got a couple back in the bottom of the fifth, on a Marwin Gonzalez RBI-fielder’s choice and a Trevor Crowe RBI-groundout to make it 3-2. Jonathan Lucroy made it 4-3 with a solo homer in the top half of the sixth, ending Harrell’s night just two outs short of a Quality Start. He allowed four runs (one earned) on five hits and no walks, striking out three in 5 1⁄3 innings and getting 60-of-98 over the plate for a marginally good 51 GameScore.
Houston trimmed the lead back to one in the bottom of that inning on a Matt Dominguez RBI-double. Gallardo kept the Astros from incurring further damage with a 1-2-3 seventh, ending his night allowing three runs, all unearned, on five hits and two walks. He struck out six, putting 70-of-105 pitches in the zone to finish with a 65 GameScore.
José Cisnero worked a scoreless eighth, leaving runners on the corners and setting the stage for the biggest play of the day.
The Random Plate Appearance
Carlos Corporán, catching for the Astros and batting cleanup in this contest, played parts of six major league seasons, including one game for the Brewers in 2009 and 33 for the Texas Rangers in 2015. For four seasons in the middle there, he worked for the Astros.
Facing Crew relief pitcher Jim Henderson, Corporán opened the plate appearance by fouling off an 86MPH slider, then took a 94MPH four seamer inside. He then swung over a low-and-inside 86MPH slider. After another slider missed the plate inside, and a 95MPH fastball was fouled off, the count was 2-2.
Corporan struck the sixth pitch of the at bat over the right field fence to tie the score at four. Over his career, he totaled 20 home runs, but few were as impactful as this one. The Astros win expectancy climbed from 29.6 percent to start the plate appearance to 60.4 percent after Corporan rounded the bags. The resulting 30.8 percent jump in win probability was more than 10 percent more “impactful” than any other plate appearance in the contest.
The Rest of the Game
Henderson got the next three batters out without incident, then the clubs traded zeroes through the ninth inning to send it to extras. Hector Ambriz surrendered a walk to Milwaukee in the top of the 10th, but left him stranded there. Corporan reached base after striking out on a wild pitch, then J.D. Martinez doubled him to third. Carlos Peña ended it with a walk-off three-run shot for a 7-4 Astros victory.
Even in the midst of their historically bad 2013 campaign, there were glimmers of hope, or dare I say, good bones for future success. It’s also proof that baseball is probably the best sport, because even the worst teams win 50 times a year. Astros fans got one better than that in 2013, and more-than-double three seasons in a row in the then-near future.
Castro was invited to the All Star team for his performance, putting up a .276/.350/.485 slash line for Houston in 120 games that season. Other than that, Astros fans would have to be patient with playing the role of punch line for a few seasons yet as they were asked to trust “The Process.” Thanks for reading today, and thanks for trusting the process.