HOUSTON -- The Astros won a baseball game on an error? Because a baseball hit Alex Bregman in the helmet near first base? Whatever it was, and however it may be explained, the Astros picked up a 6-5 win Tuesday against the A's because of one of the most bizarre
HOUSTON -- The Astros won a baseball game on an error? Because a baseball hit Alex Bregman in the helmet near first base? Whatever it was, and however it may be explained, the Astros picked up a 6-5 win Tuesday against the A's because of one of the most bizarre game-winning plays of 2018.
"What I saw was a mess at home plate," Astros manager AJ Hinch said.
A visual of the final play of the Astros' game-winner at Minute Maid Park is even stranger than it reads: Houston defeated Oakland on a ball that traveled five feet and the pooched, raucous-causing swing by Bregman the 11th inning.
Here's how it happened: Bregman struck weak contact and thought the ball fell foul. He then realized it rolled into fair territory. He saw A's catcher Jonathan Lucroy field the ball and attempt to tag him. Bregman hopped backward as a reaction and watched Lucroy drop the ball. He hustled down the first-base line and was plunked in the helmet by Lucroy's attempted throw to first. The A's catcher's throw ricocheted into right field and Kyle Tucker scored from second base.
"That was definitely very weird," Bregman said.
Lucroy's throw was scored as an error and Bregman did not receive credit for an RBI, so a fourth walk-off hit of the season does not belong to Bregman. However, the Astros' sixth walk-off win of the season was a weird, wild mess.
"At first I thought Bregman thought it was foul," Hinch said. "Then as he started to maneuver around, you see the ball kick out and [Lucroy] couldn't tag him under control. Then Bregman takes off."
This is the second time Bregman has provided an odd walk-off. On April 8 against the Padres, he hit a high popup in the infield, again just in front of home plate. San Diego first baseman Eric Hosmer appeared to have it under control, but he overran the ball and let the winning run score.
Justin Verlander's six scoreless innings were almost deemed irrelevant before Bregman's walk-off, as the Astros offense did plenty early to back its ace.
The Astros stuck A's lefty Sean Manaea for three runs in the first four innings of the win. Bregman uncorked his first of two solo home runs in the first inning, and George Springer smacked a pair of RBI singles for his first two-RBI game since June 8.
Exactly like Gerrit Cole did Monday, Verlander held the A's scoreless through six innings and allowed just three hits. And just like Monday, the A's got going against Houston's bullpen. Reliever Ken Giles allowed three runs in the ninth inning and Hector Rondon was charged with the game-tying fourth run, as Houston's fastball-reliant relievers surrendered four runs with a 4-0 lead in the ninth.
Oakland outfielder Stephen Piscotty later shot a rocket into the left-field seats in the 11th inning, giving the A's (51-41) a one-run lead in the top of the inning to secure their second straight dismantling of the Astros' bullpen in the first two games of this week's four-game series before a wacky play rewrote Tuesday's entire story.
"In the moment, it's kind of fast. I definitely screwed that one up," Lucroy said. "The boys battled back. Great game. Piscotty had that huge homer. I let them down definitely back there behind the plate. That's on me."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bregman did the damage against Manaea early with his 18th home run in the first inning, and he later added another in the seventh off Emilio Pagan. Tuesday was Bregman's first multi-home run game of his three-year career.
"I think last year, I had not a good year," said Bregman, who already tied his career high of 19 homers in 2017, "so I would hope I would match the career high. But I just think I've just been fortunate enough to put some good swings on the ball. Guys have been doing a great job of getting on base in front of me. Our hitting coaches have been giving me great reports and we've been working on the swing.
"I think the biggest thing is this year is taking pitches that are balls and swinging at pitches that are over the plate and not borderline."
The Astros' six walk-off wins are tied with the Yankees, Mariners and Blue Jays for the most in the American League.
HE SAID IT
"He's just getting pitches to hit and he's not missing them. He's got an uncanny ability to put a game plan together for himself with our coaches, go up and execute, get a pitch and hit it. His at-bats are getting scary good, especially when he's hunting something." -- Hinch, on Bregman's two homers
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Becaused it caused so much fuss, the final play of Tuesday's win was officially reviewed for more than two minutes by the umpires as both dugouts were unsure how the play, legally, occurred.
"The review part of it, I think it was just such a messy play," Hinch said. "I'm not 100 percent sure what they were looking at. If they're looking at safe out at home, which is something they can review, that's fine because the plays continues and he throws it down the right-field line and the game was over either way."
The Astros will send Lance McCullers to the mound for Game 3 of a four-game series against the A's at 7:10 p.m. CT on Wednesday at Minute Maid Park. Oakland will counter with right-hander Chris Bassitt. McCullers has completed seven innings in each of his past two starts, during which he allowed just one run on six hits while striking out 19 total batters.
Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.