Astros' lead slips away in 'heavyweight slugfest'

July 13th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- When the Astros play their final regular-season game in Globe Life Park later this weekend, don’t expect manager AJ Hinch to shed any tears when the team bus pulls away from the ballpark for the final time.

The Astros have suffered through their share of rough losses at the hands of the Rangers in the Arlington heat through the years, and Friday’s 9-8, walk-off loss will rank up their with one of the most frustrating. Houston got 13 strikeouts in six innings from starter Gerrit Cole and hit four homers, including two from rookie slugger Yordan Alvarez, but wound up blowing a late four-run lead.

“We just couldn’t keep them from scoring,” Hinch said. “They did a better job of finding ways to win the game. Credit them for an offensive approach that worked for them tonight, especially as the game went on.”

Alvarez’s second homer -- a solo shot in the seventh inning that gave him nine homers in 21 games in the Major Leagues -- put the Astros ahead, 8-4. Houston’s bullpen couldn’t hold the lead, though, with Danny Santana hitting a walk-off single past a diving George Springer to score Elvis Andrus with the winning run in the ninth.

“It’s like a heavyweight slugfest,” Cole said. “Both teams competed really hard tonight. We came up short, but it was an entertaining game. It was quite a game. It was a good game. Obviously, we want to win, but we battled our butts off all day and responded well to some of the adversity that came our way.”

The Rangers walloped five homers, including three off Cole, and scored in all but two innings. The nine combined homers were the most in a Rangers game since 2010.

“That didn’t have a lot to do with the park,” Hinch said. “Their approach was good, they hit the ball when they needed to. They were tough at-bats. It was a true outcome-type game. They were punching out a ton, they were walking, they were homering and they got the single at the end to beat us.”

Here’s how the game got away from the Astros:

Federowicz gets Harris

Not wanting to walk his former batterymate to start the seventh inning, Will Harris threw catcher Tim Federowicz a 3-2 cutter and watched him hit it 423 feet to cut the lead to 8-5. A bloop single to Shin-Shoo Choo and walk to Elvis Andrus ended Harris’ outing. All-Star Ryan Pressly took over, but Choo scored on a throwing error by catcher Robinson Chirinos. The Rangers trailed, 8-6.

“They obviously have a very talented lineup and a lot of guys that swing hard and hit a lot of home runs,” Harris said. “You’ve got to make pitches to navigate your way through it and I wasn’t able to do it. I made some good pitches to Tim early and then got into a bind where I wasn’t going to walk in and he put a good swing on the ball. Choo fisted one to left, got unlucky, and then the walk to Andrus was out of character. I didn’t do my job.”

Guzman takes Rondon deep

Hector Rondon started the eighth by walking Santana, setting up the Rangers to tie the game. With one out, Guzman crushed the first pitch he saw from Rondon and sent it 419 feet down the right-field line, clanging off the foul pole to tie the game.

“They were on base almost every inning to start the inning,” Hinch said. “We had traffic all over the place. After the walk, the down-and-in pitch to Guzman goes off the foul pole. … It’s a tough way for them to tie it. We didn’t lose the game because of that. We had an opportunity after that. We just didn’t score enough.”

Rangers walk off Osuna

In the ninth, Astros closer Roberto Osuna found himself in trouble when Andrus stole second base after he reached as the winning run on a one-out single. He struck out Rougned Odor and was one pitch away from retiring Santana and forcing extra innings, but the Rangers’ center fielder lined an 0-2 fastball into center field, past a diving Springer, to score Andrus with the winning run.

“That’s what got me the most, that I was just one pitch away,” Osuna said. “I worked so hard to get out of the jam and I couldn’t. It is frustrating, especially the game we had. We lost the lead and we’re going to make adjustments. It’s one of those games. We’re going to be back at it tomorrow.”