Wild 6th inning ends Astros' hopes of sweep

June 11th, 2021

Two of the American League’s top teams saved their best show for last, as the Astros and Red Sox capped their season series with a wild, lengthy (3 hours, 47 minutes) and eventful game at Fenway Park on Thursday night.

A managerial ejection, a fan on the field and a 211-foot “infield” fly tell only part of the story. Six lead changes, three bases-loaded walks and a 315-foot home run tell a bit more. In the end, a particularly peculiar half-inning in the sixth vaulted Boston past Houston, 12-8, preventing an Astros sweep.

“It was a tremendous change of emotions about eight times,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said, referencing a game that had more lead changes than any other in MLB this season. “We’re cheering one moment and kind of lamenting the next moment. That was a weird ballgame. The whole game was very strange. It’s hard to explain.”

The Astros struck first when Yuli Gurriel’s second-inning fly ball clanged off Pesky’s Pole in right. At 315 feet, according to Statcast, it was the second shortest over-the-wall homer in the Majors this season (ahead of only Carlos Correa’s 310-foot homer at Fenway two days prior).

Boston regained the lead in the bottom of the second before the teams ping-ponged control of the game for the next few frames. Zack Greinke was chased after three innings, his shortest outing of the year, though that was still enough to make him the innings leader in the AL (85 2/3).

The lead was back in Houston’s hands, at 8-7, in the bottom of the sixth -- after Jose Altuve golfed a solo home run on a pitch that was 0.85 feet off the ground -- but it wouldn’t stay that way for long.

With one out and a runner on third, Kyle Tucker dropped a wind-whipped fly ball in right. The next batter walked on four pitches, before another sky-high ball was dropped, this time by Correa. But because Correa had been camped under the popup, even several feet into the outfield, it was ruled an infield fly.

“I could tell they were in trouble by the way they were moving and the way their feet were moving,” Baker said of the misplayed fly balls. “Boy, that was a tough inning and a tough night for us.”

Tucker said the ball hit to him was “fading” and “knuckling” as it worked back toward the infield.

“But either way, I’ve still gotta try and catch that ball,” he added.

Enoli Paredes entered for Houston and issued a walk, an RBI hit-by-pitch and an RBI walk. As if that wasn’t bad enough on its own, Paredes also left the game with “shoulder issues,” Baker said, which flared up on Paredes’ final pitch.

The very next pitch, the first of the night for reliever Brooks Raley, was lasered off the Green Monster by Boston’s Bobby Dalbec for a two-run double. That gave the Red Sox enough cushion to carry them forward, and helped the 23,000-plus fans at Fenway take a collective deep breath.

Houston wasn’t quite done huffing and puffing, though, as Baker was ejected in the seventh inning following a strange double play.

With Yordan Alvarez on first, Gurriel appeared to foul a pitch off his foot. He even hopped around on one leg for a moment, selling the act. But the ball rolled into fair territory and was not ruled dead. Boston catcher Christian Vázquez threw to first to force out Gurriel, while a confused Alvarez was then tagged out near second base. Baker left the dugout for a brief but spirited rebuttal.

“I said a couple magic words,” Baker explained afterward. “I thought the ball hit Yuli, then I heard later that it didn’t hit him. But the way Yuli reacted, I thought it hit him. … That’s when I came out. I don’t usually go out unless I think I’m right.”

He lost the argument and Houston lost the game. Still, the Astros forge ahead for the third and final destination of their road trip (Minnesota) as winners in eight of 11. Their hot stretch includes five wins in seven games against the Red Sox, a feat not lost on their competitors despite Thursday’s result.

"The fact that they beat us, yeah they did -- three out of four [in Houston], two out of three here,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “They have a good baseball team. Those guys, I do feel they're about to take off as a team over there. They're a complete team, offensively they're very dangerous.”