The first place 2022 Astros have gotten where they are mostly on the strength of league-leading pitching, strong defensive support, and enough offense to win close games.
Although starting pitcher Framber Valdez recorded his 23rd quality start, the usually stout Astros defense sabotaged his efforts with three errors, and the offense left nine runners on base, was only 1-11 with runners in scoring position, and came up short in the score 4-3.
The Rangers got to Framber Valdez early, scoring three runs in the second inning, starting with a lead-off walk to Mark Mathias followed by a single to Leody Taveras. Both players scored on an Ezequiel Duran double. And before Valdez had even gotten one out in the inning, Duran scored on an infield hit and throwing error by Jose Altuve.
Valdez buckled down and retired the next three batters, two on K’s. The third run against Valdez was scored as unearned.
The Astros answered in their half of the second with a leadoff single by Kyle Tucker. Tucker took second on a passed ball and then stole third, his 21st of the season. He would score on a groundout by Yuli Gurriel.
In the third inning, Jose Altuve brought the Astros one run closer by flexing his new-found opposite field power with a solo shot just over the right-field fence. Right fielder Adolis Garcia got his glove on the ball but could not retain control.
Kyle Tucker, whose hustle and baserunning resulted in the Astros’ first run, hustled his way to the Astros’ third run in the fourth inning. He led off the inning with a single, stole his twenty-second base getting to second, moved to third on a J.J. Matijevic infield hit, and scored on an RBI fielder’s choice by Chas McCormick.
In both the first and fourth innings, the Astros would not have scored without the Tucker stolen bases.
The Astros and Rangers remained tied at three-all until the seventh. The Rangers took advantage of the Astros’ third infield error after Yuli Gurriel bobbled a grounder by Corey Seager with one out. Eventually, Seager would score after a Nathaniel Lowe single and a Valdez wild pitch which scored Seager from third with two outs.
Phil Maton came in to finish the seventh with a strikeout of Leody Taveras.
Although Valdez gave up four runs, he is still credited with his 23rd consecutive quality start, as two of the runs (at the time of this writing) were scored as unearned. Nonetheless, it was not one of Valdez’s best performances, as he gave up six hits, four walks, two wild pitches, and only got five groundouts in 6-2/3 innings. He did strike out eleven Rangers.
Notes: The Astros had a season-leading five stolen bases, two by Tucker, two by Jeremy Pena, and one by Jose Altuve, who was left stranded at second base in the ninth inning with one out after stealing second. The Astros were 1-11 with runners in scoring position.
It was a disappointing loss, but you’ll love this assist by the “Machete.”
The Astros go for the series win in tomorrow's rubber match, pitting Cristian Javier against the Rangers’ Cole Ragans. Game time 7:10 CT at MMP.