Before 41,000 dynamically-priced fans and a Fox TV audience, the Astros, decked in stars and stripes, showed America their best comeback magic Saturday night as they rallied for four runs in the bottom of the eighth and nipped the Yankees, 7-6, in game that threatened to get away from them the same way Friday night's affair had done.
Gonzalez, Gurriel celebrate lead
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Yuli Gurriel was the offensive hero, starting the scoring with a two-run homer in the fifth off Jordan Montgomery and ending the scoring with a two-run double off fellow Cuban Aroldis Chapman that hugged the left field line for the tying and winning runs.
Houston starter Francis Martes saw his trade value go up while fellow prospect David Paulino saw his stock go way down. Martes tossed five shutout innings, walking one and striking out seven. His breaking pitches were very effective but the righthander got into trouble in the sixth inning and was charged with two of the runs.
Will Harris, perhaps the best Houston reliever all season, allowed a walk and an RBI single before Didi Gregorius belted a grand slam homer into the right field seats for a 5-2 New York lead. It was the second consecutive night the Bombers had cracked a grand slam against Houston's bullpen. On Friday, it seemed to take all the life out of the Astros. On Saturday, it didn't.
Carlos Correa answered with a solo shot into the right field sands for his 17th home run, making it 5-3. Clint Frazier, in his first major league game, took Tony Sipp deep in the seventh to reset the Yankee lead at 6-3.
Then came the bottom of the eighth. Jose Altuve started the rally quietly with a one-out walk against Dellin Betances. Altuve swiped second and third so he could score on Correa's bouncer to second. Next, Evan Gattis launched a homer onto the railroad tracks in left to draw the Astros within one.
Carlos Beltran drew a four-pitch walk before Josh Reddick pinch-ran for him. On a pickoff attempt to first, Chris Carter dropped the ball and Reddick moved up to second. Next, Reddick stole third. Marwin Gonzalez took a 3-2 pitch for ball four.
In came Chapman and his 100-mph heat to face Gurriel. The tying run was at third and the go-ahead run was at first with two away. Gurriel extended the count to 3-2 before snapping a shot past Chase Headley at third. With the left fielder Brett Gardner played all the way around to left center, Gonzalez was able to score from first with the eventual winning tally.
Ken Giles needed just 11 pitches for his 19th save but there was still some drama to it. Gardner lined a single into left center with two out and Reddick spun and threw to Correa covering second. Gardner, indecisive about trying for a double, ran back too late for Correa's bullet which Gurriel snared and applied the tag for the final out.
Dayan Diaz, recalled earlier when Reymin Guduan was sent down to AAA Fresno, claimed his first big league win for being the right guy at the right time. Diaz was sent down improperly, it turned out, and had to be recalled anyway.
Meanwhile, the news was bad for rookie Paulino. The big righthander was found to have a banned substance in his urine and was suspended for 80 games as a second-time offender. Paulino will be ineligible for the postseason and his value as a trade piece this month is now nil. Charlie Morton is likely to come off the Disabled List in the next few days and now the Astros have the roster opening for him, perhaps buying more time for Martes to impress scouts before the July 31st trade deadline.
The Yankees series concludes Sunday at 1:10 Central with Luis Severino (5-3) pitching for the Bombers against Mike Fiers (5-3) who had strung together several good outings in June before stumbling in his last start against Oakland.
- Bob Hulsey