If the Astros get to the playoffs they are determined to make it as difficult as possible.
After gaining momentum in the playoff race with yesterday’s impressive win over the Mariners, tonight they reverted to the form that has cost them 10 of the last 14 games they have played, committing three errors, leaving ten runners on base, and hitting only 2-13 with runners in scoring position (only one of those hits producing runs).
The Astros' first inning tonight was all too reminiscent of many frustrating innings in their recent skid. After auspicious back-to-back singles by Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman to start the game, mighty Yordan Alvarez grounded out. But a Kyle Tucker walk loaded the bases with one out. However, a Jose Abreu grounder resulted in Altuve getting forced out at home. And Yainer Diaz grounded out to short. No runs. Three outs with runners in scoring position.
Astros pitcher Cristian Javier was good Javier until the third inning when the Mariners led off with back-to-back singles. Javier got a fly out to left for one out, but the Astros seemed to revert to their home-game habits when Altuve airmailed a relay throw to third, allowing a run to score. Another run scored on a sac fly.
In the fifth inning, the Mariners added three more runs. Javier left the game for Rafael Montero with runners on first and second. A Cal Raleigh single scored two runs when Kyle Tucker’s errant throw to third allowed yet another run to score from third. However, it wouldn’t have mattered, as Teoscar Hernandez singled Raleigh to third and Jarred Kelenic singled him home.
Javier pitched 4.2 innings allowing four runs, three earned, only three hits, thee walks, while striking out six.
With Mariners starting pitcher George Kirby out of the game the Astros finally scored in the seventh inning. The Astros loaded the bases with no outs but again got disappointing results. Although pinch hitter Jon Singleton sacrificed Yainer Diaz home, an Altuve strikeout to reliever Matt Brash and a Bregman groundout limited the Astros to one run.
Ryne Stanek took the mound for the Astros in the eighth inning and the Mariners expanded their lead to 6-1 on a Ty France solo homer.
The Astros mounted a threat in the ninth inning. After a Chas McCormick hit by pitch and a Jeremy Pena single put runners on first and third, Altuve punched an RBI single to right field. However, a Bregman groundout and a Yordan lineout to center ended the threat, and gave the Mariners a 6-2 win that put them back to within one-half game of the Astros for the third Wild Card berth.
In a game bereft of Astros heroes, the closest thing to a bright sport is the 1.1 scoreless innings pitched by Astros rookie southpaw Bennett Sousa after Montero gave up three hits in relief of Javier.
Tomorrow’s rubber match is probably the most important game of the year to date, as the winner will have the upper hand in the race for that third Wild Card berth. Although a Mariners win would leave them up only a half-game, with possession of the tiebreaker, this would constitute a commanding lead.
After this series, the Mariners face the Rangers for four games, and the Astros face the Diamondbacks for three games starting Friday. Like the Astros, the D-Backs will be fighting for a Wild Card position.
Tomorrow’s game is at 8:40 CT. The Astros send their ace, Framber Valdez. On paper, this looked like the best ptiching matchup for the Astros in the whole series going in.