Sometimes a team enters a game knowing it is a must win game. Sometimes a game becomes a must win while it is being played. The Astros 4-3 extra inning loss Monday night was one of the latter.
With the Astros 2 1/2 games back of the wild card entering the contest it was a nice to have game against the best team in the AL and the Astros’ nemesis. But after inning after inning of great bullpen work and the efforts of a wheezing offense to come back and tie it on Evan Gattis‘ dramatic ninth inning rip, the game became critical to win.
That it was not won rests more on a top of the lineup that went silent than on a run given up by James Hoyt in the 12th after 6 innings of one hit, shutout ball by his bullpen mates. George Springer, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa were a combined 0 for 18 with 3 walks to show for the night. And that as much as anything was the story of the game.
The team has 16 last bat wins including seven from the bat of Correa, but there were no final heroics on Monday. The Astros lost to the Rangers for the 14th time in 17 games. The Rangers won a one run game for what must be a world record of 32 times in 42 games. That is an amazing amount of wins and an amazing amount of one run games.
Previously, the Astros have played poorly and then came back to win a walk off game and moved on with energy and attitude. Will this latest kick in the (fill in your own anatomical part) throw them into the death spiral so many of us have expected?
Can the Astros beat the Rangers in the next two games?
Can their top of the lineup guys, particularly Springer, Altuve and Correa stop playing blindfolded piñata while at bat?
Will this constant pressure on the bullpen for perfection and a lot of innings finally cause it to implode?