It was the craziest game since Game 5 of the 2017 World Series.
Nineteen hits, 16 walks, 12 pitchers, 373 pitches, four lead changes, three hit-by-pitches, eight stolen bases, three errors, amazing catches, a catcher’s interference, a runner’s interference, and a run-scoring squeeze bunt.
The Astros eventually emerged from the chaos like a Terminator, winning 10-8.
The game started fortuitously for the Astros in the top of the first. Astros starter Cristian Javier walked three batters and hit another, yet miraculously got out of the inning without allowing a run.
With the bases loaded NL home run leader Pete Alonso hit a squib to Javier, who went home for the force out. Alonso ran to first base five feet on the grass, blocking catcher Martin Maldonado’s throw to first. The umpire called Alonso out for interference for a double play. Javier then walked the next batter but got Jeff McNeil to strand the bases loaded on a pop-out.
Javier threw 27 pitches in the first inning and only made 11 strikes.
In the bottom of the first, the Astros’ luck continued. A Mauricio Dubon double against Mets starter Tyler Megill was followed by Kyle Tucker being awarded first base on catcher’s interference. Two wild pitches brought Dubon home, and with the infield drawn in, a routine grounder by Alex Bregman became an RBI single, scoring Tucker.
In the second inning, Javier’s luck did not hold. Two singles, one to Daniel Vogelbach and another to Brett Baty, plus a Jose Altuve error, put Mets runners on second and third base with no outs. With one out, Javier again loaded the bases with a walk to Brandon Nimmo, but this time the Mets capitalized. Starling Marte golfed a low inside fastball over the head of left fielder Corey Julks, scoring two runs. Francisco Lindor then sacrificed Nimmo home on a fly ball to the warning track in right field.
In the bottom of the second, Mets pitcher Megill caught the wild bug, walking the bases loaded with two outs. But CF Nimmo caught a well-struck Dubon line drive to end the threat.
After one out in the third, Cristian Javier threw his last pitch to Voglebach, who hit an RBI double, his second hit of the game.
In just 2.1 innings, Javier threw 82 pitches, only 45 for strikes. He walked five, hit one batter, and allowed four hits. He struck out only one. He rarely hit the zone, and when he did, the Mets made contact. Javier managed only nine swinging strikes. It was the shortest stint in Javier’s career, and let’s hope that with Hunter Brown’s last dismal start, this doesn’t represent a trend.
Seth Martinez came in for Javier and, after yet another walk, doused the flames, holding the Mets to a 4-2 lead.
But walks hurt Mets starter Megill too. In the third, he walked leadoff hitter Kyle Tucker, who got to second on an Alex Bregman single. After a double steal, both runners scored on a Corey Julks single, chasing Megill.
Dominick Leone relieved Megill and, with two outs, promptly surrendered a homer to Chas McCormick, giving the Astros back the lead at 6-4.
In the fourth inning, the Mets tied the score after loading the bases on an infield hit, another walk given up by Martinez, and a hit-by pitch from Phil Maton. Vogelbach then got his second and third ribbies with a single up the middle, tying the score at six.
But the Astros bats did not remain silent. Dubon hit another double and scored on a Bregman single. Then the Astros’ latest rookie phenom, Yainer Diaz hit his seventh home run past the Crawford boxes seats in left center.
Classic Yainer HR to the Crawford Boxes. pic.twitter.com/B2VFGAcZ8r— Houston Astros (@astros) June 21, 2023
In the top of the fifth, Phil Maton got the Mets 1-2-3. (I don’t usually write about innings like that, but in this game, an inning with no baserunners is a real man-bites-dog story)
But the Mets staff did not get the memo. Grant Hartwig walked the bases loaded but escaped unscathed when Mauricio Dubon ended the inning with a double play.
In the sixth, with a three-run lead, Manager Dusty Baker brought in the Astros’ worst relief pitcher, Rafael Montero. It took about five pitches for Lindor to double off the wall in center and Alonso to homer him in. Tommy Pham immediately singled and then stole second. With two outs, Baty drilled a 108.7 MPH line drive to left with a .820 xBA, but Julks made a fantastic catch to preserve the Astros lead.
The Astros went down 1-2-3 in the sixth on three well-struck line drive outs.
In the top of the seventh, Corey Julks made another terrific play to potentially save a run. Nimmo hit a fly high off the wall in left. Julks played it perfectly and threw a strike to Altuve, who tagged Nimmo one inch before Nimmo’s hand touched the bag.
In the bottom of the seventh, Corey Julks led off with (what else) a walk from Josh Walker. Jeremy Pena then hit a bullet off Walker’s ankle, and in his effort to retrieve the ball and throw Pena out, Walker threw the ball away, putting runners on second and third with no outs.
Walker surrendered the mound to Adam Ottovino.
Ottovino struck out McCormick on three nasty pitches, but Julks scored on a rare safety squeeze play by Maldonado, barely sliding under Ottovino’s tag.
In the eighth, Bryan Abreu walked lead-off hitter Lindor, but struck out Alonso, Pham, and got McNeil to fly out.
Mercifully, Ryan Pressly saved fans any more drama in the ninth, getting the Mets to go down quietly, striking out two.
The Astros' offense bailed out erratic pitching, getting two RBI each from Dubon, Bregman (3-5), Diaz, and Julks. The Astros had nine hits, eight walks, and only seven strikeouts with four hits with runners in scoring position. The Astros beat the Mets in homers 2-1.
And although the Astros pitchers allowed eight walks and ten hits, fourteen Ks helped the team hold the Mets despite their having more baserunners.
The Astros won the series with the Mets and scored 14 runs in the last two games despite the absence of Yordan Alvarez and a combined 0-10 performance from Kyle Tucker in the series, the other main threat for the Stros.
I nominate Corey Julks as the player of the game. Besides his two RBI, two incredible plays in left and scoring on the squeeze bunt certainly earn him the Heart and Hustle award.