Astros celebrate big win
(c) USA Today
The Astros picked up a much-needed win Thursday afternoon with a 5-1 triumph over the Rangers at Tropicana Field. A combination of outstanding pitching, highlight reel defense, and timely hitting brought back memories of the team Astros fans became accustomed to seeing over the first two-thirds of the season.
The Rangers scored an unearned run off Collin McHugh in the first inning thanks to a single, a passed ball, a wild pitch, and a ground out. Juan Centeno, a last minute replacement behind the plate, may have still been suffering from jet lag in that first frame. Arriving shortly before game time to replace the injured Evan Gattis, Centeno was able to shake off a rough first inning and team up with three pitchers to execute the game plan and silence the Rangers' bats.
The Astros got off to a quick start in the bottom of the first. On the first pitch from Nick Martinez, George Springer hit a rocket right back through the box for a single. Alex Bregman went to a 3-2 count and struck out swinging as Springer stole second. But home plate umpire Chris Segal ruled that Bregman had interfered with the catcher's attempt to throw to second -- and Springer was called out.
A.J. Hinch came out to argue the call and was quickly ejected by crew chief Joe West. With bench coach Alex Cora now at the helm, Jose Altuve hammered the next pitch into one of the lower rings of the dome for a solo homer. The Astros would catch a break with the ground rules again in the fourth inning. A blast off the bat of Joey Gallo (projected by Statcast to be on course to travel 405 feet) bounced off the "B" ring and fell to the turf in rightfield for a double.
McHugh stranded Gallo at second and the Astros rallied to take a 2-1 lead in the home half of the frame. Alex Bregman led off with a single up the middle. Bregman stole second and came around to score on Josh Reddick's line drive single to right with one out.
The Rangers mounted a rally in the fifth and McHugh was pulled from the game one out short of qualifying for the win. Chris Devenski retired Adrian Beltre to end the threat and Devo stayed in to pitch two more scoreless innings.
A strange and unfortunate turn of events occurred in the bottom of the seventh when two future Hall of Famers left the game with injuries within minutes of each other. Carlos Beltran was hit by a pitch on the right ankle. A few pitches later, Beltre came away with a strained left hamstring after fielding J.D. Davis' infield single. Beltran says he will be fine. Beltre will undergo an MRI on Friday.
With the Astros still nursing a 1-run lead, Ken Giles came on to pitch the eighth. Houston's closer worked around a walk to Mike Napoli to keep the lead intact into the bottom half of the stanza.
Jose Leclerc walked the next two batters and was replaced on the mound by Alex Claudio. Bregman stroked a run-scoring single to center to make it 3-1. Derek Fisher delivered the fatal blow with a 2-out single down the leftfield line that plated two more runners.
Giles stayed in the game to record a 1-2-3 ninth, including a strikeout of Drew Robinson to end it and secure Houston's 80th win of the season. The team breathes a huge sigh of relief as they head back home to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on Friday before lacing them up for a double-header against the Mets on Saturday.
Off the field, the Astros claimed speedy outfielder Cameron Maybin off waivers from the Angels. Expect to see Maybin and a few other additions to the team as rosters expand beyond the 25-man limit as of September 1st. In addition, Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, and Tony Sipp all continue to work their way back from injuries. All three are on minor league rehab assignments and could be ready to return to big league action soon.
- Greg Thurston