Somehow, despite everything, the Astros keep hanging on.
Tonight, the good luck the Astros appeared to be having with their AAAA replacement pitchers ended. Brandon Bielak couldn’t last five innings, and when he left the game, the Astros were down six to four.
The Astros were only down two runs because Chas McCormick hit a two-run double in the first, and his four other RBI overcame an Astros bullpen meltdown and set the stage for Yainer Diaz’s walk-off single.
This game was a slugfest from the start. The Rangers got to Bielak early with two runs in the first. Bielak got the first two batters out but walked Nathaniel Lowe and then surrendered a homer to Josh Jung.
But the Astros struck back with four runs of their own off Rangers starter Jon Gray. Gray loaded the bases immediately after singles to Mauricio Dubon, Alex Bregman, and a walk to Kyle Tucker.
Gray then walked Jose Abreu for the Astros’ first run and surrendered a two-run double to the Chasman, Chas McCormick. The fourth run scored on a Jeremy Pena RBI fielder’s choice.
But the Astros gave it all away and then some in the second inning. Bielak walked the first two batters, and a Jose Abreu fielding error resulted in one run, and with two outs, singles by Travis Jankowski and Lowe resulted in two more runs. All three runs against Bielak were unearned.
The Rangers added another run in the fourth on a Josh Smith solo homer.
But the Astros tied the game at 6-6 with two runs in the fifth on two hits. Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker opened with singles, Abreu walked to load the bases, and then Bregman and Tucker scored on consecutive sacrifice flies by Chas McCormick and Yainer Diaz.
The Rangers took the lead in the seventh thanks to more wild pitching. Although Parker Mushinski held the Rangers for 1.1 innings after Bielak’s departure in the fifth inning, Phil Maton gave up two hits and two walks; the second walk to Jonah Helm scored a run. With the bases loaded, Ryne Stanek came in and got his first batter to fly out harmlessly, but then he walked in another run. The Rangers went up 9-6 when Leody Taveras hit a sac fly. All three runs were charged to Maton. Since July 7, including tonight, Maton’s ERA is 13.85.
But the command bug then struck the Rangers. They brought in every Astros fan’s favorite reliever, recently-acquired Aroldis Chapman. Chapman didn’t have to face Altuve as he did in inning 10 of the 2019 ALCS. But the Chasmanian Devil made him wish he would never have to pitch in Minute Maid ever again. After two walks by Chapman, McCormick hit a three-run homer to left center to tie the game at nine.
No reports of Chapman smiling this time.
The score stayed 9-9 until the bottom of the ninth when Alex Speas came in for the Rangers, hoping to put the game into extras. He walked Kyle Tucker and Chas McCormick, and on a 0-2 count, Yainer Diaz lifted a soft liner over the second baseman’s head. With one out, it didn’t look like a send opportunity for Tucker, but he raced home and beat the tag by a razor margin, ruled safe after review.
Lack of pitcher command was a major issue for both teams. Each team walked seven, and most of those runners ended up scoring.
After the combined Maton, Stanek meltdown, Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly held the Rangers, enabling the Astros to make another dramatic, come-from-behind victory against the South OK boys. Pressly got the win.
The Astros are now down only two in the AL West, and the Rangers must be doubting their early-season sense that they are the team of destiny.
Same time tomorrow.