Sometime around 5:30 PM California time on Tuesday, the Astros were in a world of hurt. A quick summation of their woes after dropping the first game of a doubleheader to the A’s 4-2.
- Their 6th consecutive loss dropped them to .500 on the season for the first time since they were 10-10 on Aug. 15th.
- It meant that they could end the night a 1/2 game ahead of the Mariners for second in the division if they also lost the nightcap and the M’s won.
- Their offense, which had scored 6 runs or more in their four-game sweep at the hands of the Angels, had apparently missed the plane to Oakland as they only had a clutch 2 run homer by Michael Brantley to show for the first two games of the series. Truth to tell the Astros had hit some shots in both games, but they almost all found leather.
- Their pitching staff and rotation was in shambles. They had seemingly shot off their last and best bullet in Zack Greinke, who was undone by some clutch hitting by Khris Davis (who had not been hitting anyone), and former Astro and Astro farmhand Robbie Grossman and Ramon Laureano, respectively.
- The Greinke game was supposed to be the best shot at a win in the doubleheader as TBD morphed into Chase De Jong and his emergency start in the second game.
So, if the Astros had their backs against the wall heading into the second game of the doubleheader, about an hour later it seemed like their backs were on the other side of the wall. De Jong had pitched a scoreless first and second inning, but in the third inning, his carriage turned back into a pumpkin as the A’s behind a 3 run moon shot by Matt Olson raced off to a 4-0 lead. This appeared double dire at the time as the Astros had only managed 1 hit off former Ranger Mike Minor in the first three innings and had ended the third inning with three straight strikeouts.
The Astros then had one of the most important and fortuitous half innings of the season. Myles Straw and Michael Brantley opened the inning with singles to left field. After Yuli Gurriel, who hit in bad luck all game, hit a liner to the center fielder, Minor walked Kyle Tucker to load the bases and then hit Carlos Correa on a 1-2 pitch to bring in the first run. The A’s then brought in Yusmeiro Petit to pitch, who had only walked 3 hitters in 16 innings prior to this appearance. After retiring Aledmys Diaz on another liner to center, things took an odd turn as Petit then walked Abraham Toro (hitting .150) and Dustin Garneau (hitting .160) to bring the Astros to within one run. George Springer then hit a grounder up the middle that with SS Marcus Semien sitting out, 2B Tony Kemp had to field and threw late to first to tie the game.
With the score tied, the Astros’ bullpen did what they could not do in the previous 5 losses and held the opponent scoreless as Brad Peacock, Brooks Raley and Enoli Paredes kept the game tied headed into the 7th and last inning.
The Astros then were almost as lucky in the top of the 7th as in the 4th as Springer reached on an error by substitute SS Vimael Machin (who is apparently no machine in the fielding department). Myles Straw then failed to move Springer over on a couple of bunt attempts, much to Dusty Baker‘s chagrin but hit a two-strike slow roller to the right side that he beat out for an infield single. Brantley worked a walk to load the bases and Gurriel put the Astros ahead with another solid fly ball to center.
All that was left was for Ryan Pressly to put a bow on the proceedings with a 1-2-3 bottom of the 7th and the Astros felt the weight of the losing streak lift from their shoulders.
Across the Bay, the Mariners let the Giants come back from a 4 run deficit, ironically, to win 6-5 and the Astros went back to their hotel with a 2-1/2 game over the M’s and new hope heading into Wednesday and Thursday games against the A’s.
Luis Garcia, who had never pitched above A+ ball before throwing a valiant 4.2 innings in relief of the injured Lance McCullers last Friday gets the ball on Wednesday. This could end badly for the Astros or as they showed on Tuesday night, this could be their finest hour.