Centeno delivers game-winning hit
(c) Associated Press
Three hours into Sunday afternoon's game against the Blue Jays it looked like the Astros were destined to lose for the eighth time in the last eleven games. But a miracle comeback against one of the best closers in the game gave the 'Stros and their fans reason to celebrate.
Rookie catcher Juan Centeno's 2-out RBI single capped a 4-run ninth inning to give the Astros an improbable 7-6 win over Roberto Osuna and the Jays. And while the destination ended up being paradise, Sunday's journey was filled with pitfalls along the way.
Starting pitcher Mike Fiers turned in a solid outing, pitching into the seventh inning, but left the game in a position to be the loser after being charged with five runs (four of which were earned). Jays hitters made Fiers pay dearly for the few mistake pitches that he threw, starting with their first hit of the game. Jose Bautista's 2-run homer in the third inning came right on the heels of a throwing error by Marwin Gonzalez that allowed Darwin Barney to reach base.
The Astros got a couple of fortuitous bounces of their own in the fifth inning when the plated three runs (two earned) against Marcus Stroman to take a 3-2 lead. A sacrifice fly by Gonzalez helped atone for his miscue and put the Astros ahead.
The Jays tallied four runs in the seventh, including a 2-run homer off the bat of former Astro Norichika Aoki. Fiers left the game with no outs and a runner on first and was "relieved" by Luke Gregerson. Justin Smoak's 2-out drive to center got over the head of Jake Marisnick and suddenly the Jays were in command of a 6-3 game.
Stroman got two outs in the bottom of the inning before back-to-back singles by Gonzalez and Carlos Beltran knocked him out of the game. Dominic Leone came on to get the final out and added a 1-2-3 eighth to secure his fourth hold of the year.
Frances Martes looked good out of the Houston bullpen, getting five outs without allowing a hit but the Astros still trailed by three with only three outs left to play with.
Jose Altuve started off the bottom of the ninth with his third hit of the game -- a line drive single to center off Osuna. Josh Reddick followed and was called out on strikes. Reddick took exception to home plate umpire Rob Drake's strike zone and earned an ejection from the contest. A.J. Hinch had a few choice words for Drake as well but somehow managed to stay in the game.
The Astros continued to make solid contact against Osuna as Yuli Gurriel and Marwin followed with line drive singles to load the bases. Carlos Beltran hit a grounder to second that scored Altuve and extended the game when the Astros' elder statesman was able to beat the throw to first after Gonzalez was forced at second.
Alex Bregman came to the plate as the Astros' last hope and with a personal 7-game extra-base hit streak on the line. The former first round pick didn't disappoint, ripping a liner into the left-centerfield gap for a 2-run triple to tie the game.
Juan Centeno was next. Playing in only his third big league game of the season and his first since May, Centeno strode confidently to the plate having already collected a hit and a walk in four plate appearances. After falling behind in the count 1-and-2 on sliders the lefty hitting catcher roped a fastball into rightfield for the game-winner.
A wild on-field celebration ensued and during his postgame interview a water bucket meant for Centeno wound up dousing TV reporter Julia Morales. No word yet on what sort of repercussions are due perpetrators Collin McHugh and George Springer as Morales was too caught up in the excitement of the victory to get upset at that moment in time.
- Greg Thurston