For the first eight innings, the Astros pitching staff performed relatively well. Sure, Framber Valdez allowed three earned runs, two on a towering fly ball that landed one row into the right field seats. Should Kyle Tucker have robbed that one? Probably? No, definitely.
Héctor Neris was Houdini once again, walking that tightrope between chaos and order. Bryan Abreu allowed a run for the second time since July 18. Both runs, by the way, have occurred in this series. Rafael Montero and Ryne Stanek...wait, no, not revisiting that hot mess.
One could argue that the lineup did a solid job of creating some traffic on the basepaths. Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, and José Abreu had a combined six hits. A combined xBA of .264 compared to .280 for the Rangers. Michael Brantley contributed two walks, in addition to four more free passes scattered throughout the lineup. Alas, any positive news about the lineup immediately ends — a full hard stop — there as this group did a downright terrible job of actually converting those opportunities into runs, with an abysmal 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
- Alex Bregman flied out to center (1st inning)
- Yordan Alvarez singled to score Jose Altuve (1st inning)
- José Abreu lined out (1st inning)
- Kyle Tucker struck out swinging (1st inning)
- Abreu reached on a fielder’s choice, Alvarez out at second (3rd inning)
- Tucker reached on a fielder’s choice, Abreu out at second (6th inning)
- Mauricio Dubón lined out (8th inning)
- Jon Singelton struck out swinging (8th inning)
That’s the story of the game from the Astros’ point of view, plain and simple. A lot of blame to go around, although the decision to use Jon Singleton as a pinch hitter for Jeremy Peña over Chas McCormick or Yainer Díaz was arguably the most confounding decision of the game from Dusty Baker. While Singleton’s eye at the plate is sometimes a positive, as evidenced in Game 5, the Astros elected to not use one of their best hitters this season with a pennant on the line. Heck, I’d even argue more that McCormick would’ve been an appropriate pinch hitter for Dubón. McCormick was one of the best hitters against four-seam fastballs this season, with a +22 run value. Dubón had a -7 run value against four-seam fastballs. José Leclerc throws a four-seam fastball roughly 36% of the time. Against slider, which Leclerc throws about 31% of the time, McCormick has a +4 run value with Dubón at -2 runs.
In a situation with the bases loaded and one out, I understand the allure of Dubón’s contact-oriented profile. Honestly, I do. A single through the infield to the outfield scores at least one, possibly two. But the Astros were fortunate that Dubón lined out to Corey Seager considering its exit velocity (67.6 MPH) and the fact that the ball didn’t escape the infield. It could’ve easily become a double play to end the threat even sooner than what ultimately happened. That is the risk with Dubón’s profile, especially in a situation with runners in scoring position with at least one out. But even if Baker was insistent on having Dubón hit in that situation no matter who else was available, the decision not to at least hit McCormick or Díaz for Peña was incredibly frustrating.
Top 3 Hitters at MMP in 2023
Yainer Díaz - 164
Yordan Alvarez - 144
Chas McCormick - 144
Ultimately, the Astros did themselves in by not taking advantage of numerous opportunities. The club is now 7-21 in their last 28 home games and now 1-4 at home in this year’s postseason. Bryan Abreu’s fate for Game 7 rests with his appeal, scheduled to take place before the first pitch. The season now rests on the shoulders of Cristian Javier, who starts opposite Max Scherzer. Can the Astros avoid being the only team to lose all four home games in a postseason series twice? Monday is going to be a day to remember, one way or another.