Even the best fail at baseball sometimes.
Today, two of the best relievers in the best bullpen in baseball failed to hold a lead heroically provided by Jose Altuve, giving the Twins a 7-5 win over the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Starter J.P. France opened the game strong for the Astros but ran into some trouble in the third inning that could have been avoided. With two outs and no one on, France walked Carlos Correa, allowed a bloop single to Alex Kiriloff, and then gave up the shortest possible home run to rookie Royce Lewis. On a good outside slider, Lewis, just off IL, went oppo taco, hitting the foul pole one foot above the fence in right field.
He predicted something special before the game, but this was just the beginning for Lewis.
The Twins added another run in the fourth that France could have avoided. A lead-off single wound up with a runner on second from a France wild pitch. the runner scored on a Michael Taylor RBI single.
But the Astros inched back in the fourth, starting with a Yordan Alvarez double (erroneously scored an error on 1B Joey Gallo). Alvarez took third on an Alex Bregman single and scored on a Kyle Tucker double play.
But the Astros came up big in the seventh thanks to their little big man, Jose Altuve. A double by Tucker and a Jose Abreu walk chased Twins starter Sonny Gray. And after a Mauricio Dubon single against Brock Stewart loaded the bases, Jose Altuve did his thing. A 99 MPH fastball found its way to the left-center field Crawford Boxes, giving the Astros a 5-4 lead. It was Altuve’s second homer of the season and second in two days, and in 14 IP this year, these were the first earned runs against twins reliever Stewart all year.
After successful holds by Seth Martinez and Hector Neris, Ryan Pressly was sent in to save the game. His slider did not look sharp, and with runners on first and second, Lewis (him again) touched one that looked a lot like the pitch he homered on, sending it just over the head of Jose Altuve, tying the score. It was Pressly’s first blown save of the year.
In the bottom of the ninth, Jose Abreu led off with a single on a 104 MPH fastball from Jhoan Duran. However, Jake Meyers hit into a fielder’s choice, Dubon hit a long flyout to center, and pinch hitter Yainier Diaz struck out chasing a high 103 MPH heater.
In the tenth inning, Ryan Jeffers hit new reliever Bryan Abreu’s first pitch into the Crawford Boxes with a line drive clocked at 117 MPH.
The Astros had no such fireworks in the bottom of the tenth, the top of the lineup going down quietly to Duran 1-2-3 to give the Twins the first game of the series 7-5.
J.P. France pitched better than his box score. He went six innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and three walks, with eight strikeouts. But for one two-out walk and a wild pitch, France could have finished a six-inning shutout.
However, Ryan Pressly and Bryan Abreu, two of the best relievers in baseball, allowed a total of three runs in two innings to allow the Twins the come-from-behind victory.
But let’s not let the offense off the hook here. Seven hits (two by Dubon) and 11 total bases in ten innings will not usually win a game.