ARLINGTON -- If you blinked, you might have missed it. And you also might not have believed what unfolded in the eighth inning Tuesday night for the Astros, who haven’t exactly shown the knack for stringing together hits and coming back from deficits late in games this year.
By coming back from down three runs to beat the Rangers and stretch their American League West division lead to 8 1/2 games, the Astros posted their biggest comeback win of the season and won for just the third time this year when trailing after seven innings (3-20).
“Boy, that was probably, might be the victory of the year,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “I can’t remember a more exciting finish than that. We needed that badly. We’re in position to hopefully win the rubber match tomorrow.”
Rangers starter Dane Dunning threw six scoreless innings, allowing two hits, and reliever Matt Bush threw a 1-2-3 seventh inning to push Houston’s seemingly anemic offense to the brink of a shutout. In the eighth, the Rangers summoned lefty John King, who coughed up the lead quickly in a flurry of hits and one very costly error.
Jose Altuve began the inning with a single and went to third on a Michael Brantley single. Alex Bregman hit a ground ball to shortstop Corey Seager that possibly could have been a double play, but Seager instead chose to throw home to try to get Altuve, who was caught in a rundown. But third baseman Ezequiel Duran couldn’t handle the throw back from catcher Sam Huff, and Altuve scored. Suddenly, the Astros were within 2 with runners at second and third.
“I was trying to get in a rundown and try to get Michael and Bregman one more base,” Altuve said.
After Yordan Alvarez drove in Brantley with a grounder, Tucker crushed the next pitch from King and sent it 408 feet into the Rangers’ bullpen to put the Astros ahead, 4-3. The homer extended Tucker’s hitting streak to 13 games, which is the longest active streak in the Majors. He’s hitting .340 (16-for-47) with four homers and nine RBIs during the streak.
“I was just trying to hit the ball not into the infield playing in right there and try to get the run,” said Tucker, who ditched his orange batting gloves for the at-bat for the first time in nearly two weeks. “Just try and get it to the outfield or as far as possible to try and get the run in. He threw a slider over the plate, and I put a good swing on it, and it worked out really well.”
An underrated moment during the game-winning rally came when Altuve went first to third on Brantley’s single, sliding in just ahead of a strong throw from Texas right fielder Adolis García.
“Hey man, [Altuve’s] a good and daring baserunner,” Baker said. “He’s not afraid to make mistakes. He ran on a very strong arm and made a close play. That’s what you’re supposed to do. The outfielder had to go to his right to get the ball and throw back to his left. He made an outstanding throw, and Altuve made a very good slide.”
Daring? Yes, but Altuve isn’t so sure he would do it again.
“That was a little risky, I think,” he said. “If it happens again, I have to think twice. It ended up being closer than what I thought. With no outs … I don’t know.”
The late-inning heroics weren’t quite over for the Astros, however. Relievers Rafael Montero (eighth) and closer Ryan Pressly (ninth) both allowed the leadoff batter to reach before getting clutch double plays to erase them.
“Montero came in and got a huge double play,” Baker said. “They had some speed guys on the bases, and Pressly closed it out with another double play. That’s a pitcher’s best friend, that double play. You get two outs on one pitch.”
The Rangers had a 95 percent win probability in the bottom of the seventh inning, which underscores just how bleak things looked for the Astros heading into the eighth.
“We’re always positive about stuff,” Altuve said. “We’re trying to get on base. We never give up, because we’re always thinking we can make it happen. We have confidence in each other, and we’re going out there 100 percent every day.”