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Tenth Inning Bullpen Meltdown Sinks Astros, Go Down to Rangers 8-4

Another Verlander quality start and homers by Tucker and Alvarez wasted

MLB: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The usually reliable Astros bullpen allowed five runs in the 10th inning, and the offense wasted several opportunities to win the game in regulation, as the Rangers took the second game of this three-game series in Houston, 8-4

The Astros struck first in the second inning. Alex Bregman led off with a walk, advanced to third on a Kyle Tucker single, and scored on a Jeremy Pena ground out.

The Rangers took the lead briefly in the fourth starting when Nathaniel Lowe singled and scored on a Leodys Taveras triple. Taveras scored on a Meibrys Viloria sac fly.

The Astros managed to place runners on second and third in the third inning with only one out. But 3rd and 4th hitters Yordan Alvarez and Alex Bregman stranded them by striking out and flying out respectively.

The Astros tied the score in the bottom of the fourth inning on the strength of a Kyle Tucker solo homer. They eventually loaded the bases later in the inning but Yuli Gurriel stranded then with a ground out to end the inning.

The Rangers re-captured the lead in the sixth inning when Aroldis Garcia led off with a single, stole second, advanced to third on a flyout, and scored on a Taveras sac fly.

The Astros defense held the Rangers in the seventh due to an outstanding defensive play by left-fielder Chas McCormick. With Ryne Stanek on the mound, and speedy Ezequiel Duran on second base with two outs, McCormick fielded Marcus Semien’s single cleanly, threw a one-hop strike on a line to catcher Martin Maldonado, who barely tagged out Duran on a play that was challenged by the Rangers.

The Astros tied the score in the bottom of the seventh on a solo homer by Yordan Alvarez, who came into the game with .148 BA for August with no homers. and had struck out twice previously in this game.

Bench coach Espada (replacing COVID positive Dusty Baker) successfully used pinch-hitters in the eighth inning when, with two-outs, Aledmys Diaz and Trey Mancini hit consecutive pinch hit singles. But Jose Altuve stranded them with a harmless pop-out to end the inning.

Justin Verlander notched another quality start, going six innings allowing three runs, on five hits, three walks, while whiffing seven. Ryne Stanek, Hector Neris, and Ryan Pressly held the Rangers scoreless through the ninth inning, with Pressly striking out the side in the ninth on 11 pitches.

In the bottom of the ninth inning the heart of the Astros order, Gurriel, Alvarez and Bregman, went down to Rangers reliever Taylor Hearn 1-2-3, setting up extra innings. (Going into this game, Gurriel was hitting .167 in August, and was hitless in this game)

To start the tenth Espada brought in Phil Maton. The Rangers lead off hitter, Josh Smith, hit a bunt single. Maton then walked Jonah Helm to load the bases with no outs. The extra-runner, Duran, scored on a Semien sac fly, and Smith scored on a Corey Seager single to right. Aroldis Garcia loaded the bases again with a single when Espada decided to bring in Bryan Abreu.

Abreu struck out Nathaniel Lowe swinging on a 3-2 count, but gave up a three run double to Taveras to put the game out of reach, 8-3.

The Astros did close the gap in the bottom of the tenth, with Kyle Tucker singling in extra runner Bregman, but that was the end of the Astros production, as Ranger reliever Jonathon Hearn retired the remaining Astros batters.

The Astros were 1-10 with runners in scoring position, and left 11 runners on base. The Rangers were 5-11 with runners in scoring position.

Jeremy Pena came into tonight’s game hitting .119 since July 28th, and was 0-5 tonight. Gurriel and Pena together left eight runners on base.

Phil Maton was the losing pitcher, allowing five runs, (four earned).

Tomorrow Framber Valdez goes for the Stros in the rubber match. Early start, 1:10.

Box score and videos here.