TORONTO -- When the season is over and the Astros are putting together a medley of games to remember, Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays will be nowhere to be found. The Astros will bury it deep in the bottom of their recycling bin, never to be spoken of again.
The Astros, who tied their season-high of three consecutive losses, are five games out of first place in the American League West for the first time in a full season since the end of the 2016 campaign.
Alex Bregman led off the second inning with a homer that put the Astros ahead, but not much went right after that. Ace lefty Framber Valdez lasted only five innings and walked four batters, with three of those free passes leading directly to Blue Jays’ runs. Houston managed only four singles after the Bregman homer.
“We didn’t really come through,” Astros shortstop Jeremy Peña said. “That’s not who we are as a team. We put together great at-bats. We pass it onto the next guy and we put together runs, and we didn’t do that the last three games.”
Valdez threw 32 of his 98 pitches in a laborious fifth inning, when the Jays scored three runs on two hits. He walked three batters in the inning, but still could have gotten out of the mess having allowed only one run.
With the bases loaded and one out, Matt Chapman hit a chopper to Valdez, whose momentum carried him towards the third-base line. He threw to second base for an out, but the Astros couldn’t complete the double play and a run scored. Two more came home later in the inning on RBI hits by Alejandro Kirk and Brandon Belt.
Valdez said he didn’t have a good shot to cut down Daulton Varsho at the plate on Chapman’s grounder and instead tried to start an inning-ending double play.
“I think there, I would have had to turn my body and make a difficult throw there and what would have happened? Maybe [I would've] thrown the ball away or something like that,” he said. “But I thought the best choice was to try to go to second base and keep the runners at first and third and try to get a double play. It didn’t happen, but that was the plan.”
“I thought he was going to throw to first there to try to throw behind Chas, and I thought I was going to have a good chance to get to third base,” Abreu said. “Didn’t happen. I made a mistake.”
Abreu didn’t stop there in being accountable.
“I take, obviously, full responsibility there for the mistake I made there,” he said. “I’m a man of my word. I made a mistake, and we lost because of me today. I take full responsibility.”
Then, down by a run in the eighth, Peña hit a chopper back to Jays pitcher Erik Swanson to start the inning. What looked like a routine play wasn’t, as Swanson nearly threw the ball away. Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had to make a leaping catch and then dive back to the base and tag it with his glove to get Peña, who didn’t run hard to first base. His sprint speed was 23.6 feet per second (his season average is 29.6 feet per second, which is in the 97th percentile).
“Ten times out of 10, it’s a routine play,” Peña said. “When I did see the throw go wide, I thought there might have been a chance [for me to be safe].”
Astros manager Dusty Baker shared Peña's frustration.
“The ball was hit back to the pitcher and the one time you don’t run is the one time he throws wild,” he said. “We’ve just got to regroup and just bust it a little harder.”