Oh no! Astros' no-hit bid falls 2 outs shy

September 14th, 2023

HOUSTON -- Sure, a combined no-hitter would have been something the Astros would have enjoyed celebrating Wednesday night, but the most important takeaways from a much-needed 6-2 win over the A’s at Minute Maid Park centered around a big swing of the bat from slugger and a strong outing by rookie starter .

Alvarez blasted a three-run home run in the third inning -- a 117.7 mph shot that marked the hardest-hit homer by any Astros player since Statcast began tracking in 2015 -- to spark a struggling offense, and Brown threw five no-hit innings as Houston avoided what would have been a disastrous sweep at the hands of the last-place A’s, who instead dropped their 100th game of the season.

“Obviously, that was huge for us,” Alvarez said. “It was one of those things we couldn’t allow a sweep here at home after losing those first two games, so all the focus was on this game. The pitching staff did a great job.”

  • Games remaining: at KC (3), vs. BAL (3), vs. KC (3), at SEA (3), at AZ (3)
  • Standings update: The Astros (83-64) lead the American League West by one game over the Rangers (81-64) and 1 1/2 games over the Mariners (81-65). The Astros hold the season tiebreaker against the Rangers, but not the Mariners.
  • Magic number to clinch AL West: 16

Brown allowed two walks and hit one batter while striking out seven over five hitless innings. Rafael Montero then threw a 1-2-3 sixth inning, Hector Neris threw a perfect seventh and Bryan Abreu was spotless in the eighth. Closer Ryan Pressly retired Tony Kemp to start the ninth before walking Zack Gelof and giving up a single to Ryan Noda to break up the no-hit bid.

"You're doing everything you can do to avoid it,” said A’s right fielder Seth Brown, who followed Noda with an RBI single in the ninth. “All you can do in those situations is put up good at-bats, and Noda, for the most part, puts up good at-bats. I've faced Pressly a lot, so I was giving [Noda] as much info as I could on him and [told him] just go in there and have a good at-bat. That's what Noda does. He puts up a good one and sends one through the hole there, and gets that monkey off our back."

Alvarez gave Houston the big swing it was sorely needing with a three-run homer in the third inning off Paul Blackburn that traveled a Statcast-projected 422 feet. Alex Bregman followed with a homer of his own to make it 4-0. Kyle Tucker walloped his 100th career homer in the seventh inning for his AL-leading 105th RBI.

“We got some runs early, which we hadn’t been getting against the A’s because they’ve been dealing on us,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Yeah, that was big. That was a monster shot [by Alvarez]. It was huge. We needed this victory tonight badly before we go on the road [to face Kansas City]. We’ve got a day off tomorrow. It was a good night.”

Brown was 1-3 with a 9.56 ERA in his previous four starts, so throwing five hitless innings represented an important development for a starting rotation looking for quality innings behind Framber Valdez, Justin Verlander and J.P. France. Brown threw only 78 pitches (53 strikes) and rolled through the A's lineup with the best curveball he’s had in a month.

“I felt like the line out of my hand was a lot better," Brown said. "And pairing that with a fastball that I thought I had a little bit more ride today, which was definitely a difference maker for me."

Brown credited teammates such as Verlander, Pressly and catcher Martín Maldonado, along with Baker and the coaching staff, for helping him get back on track.

“It was good to see results, but you don’t want to get attached to those because I think I’ve had some times where I’m throwing the ball well and my mechanics are good, and the results aren’t there,” he said. “So it feels good to feel good in those mechanics and see some of the stuff we’re expecting to have tonight.”

Despite having not allowed a hit through five innings, Brown’s pitch count was going to be too high to finish off a potential no-hitter. Instead of sending him back out for the sixth inning against the top of Oakland’s batting order, Baker decided to pull Brown after five so he could focus on some positive results.

“He probably only had one more inning, but we wanted to send him out on a high note,” Baker said. “The back end of our bullpen hadn’t pitched since Saturday. That was a way to get a victory for us, send him out on a high note and then get work for Montero, Neris, Abreu and Pressly.”