Costly error shifts momentum, sinks Astros

Garcia yields two unearned runs on an errant throw as bats fall quiet

May 24th, 2022

HOUSTON -- Astros pitcher Luis Garcia turned towards second base, attempted a throw he’s made hundreds of times and quickly looked away at the calamity that was unfolding. The throw was about 10 feet wide of the base -- certainly well out of the reach of second baseman Jose Altuve -- and sailed into center field. 

Garcia couldn’t bear to watch as Guardians catcher Luke Maile scored from second base and speedster Myles Straw wound up at third. He eventually scored, too. Garcia’s throwing error in the third inning gifted a pair of unearned runs that turned out to be all Cleveland needed in a 6-1 win over the Astros on Monday night at Minute Maid Park. 

“When I saw that I threw the ball to center field, I said ‘Wow,’” Garcia said.

Garcia gave up a pair of earned runs in the fifth when he walked Maile -- the No. 9-hole hitter -- and coughed up a two-out, two-run homer two batters later to José Ramírez that made it 4-0. Garcia threw five innings, allowing five hits, four runs (two earned) and two walks with four strikeouts while suffering his second consecutive loss.  

“It was that errant throw to second base and the two-run homer that gave them the lead,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. 

But the error is what will keep Garcia up at night.

He retired seven of the first eight hitters he faced before Maile singled with one out in the third. Straw -- Garcia’s former teammate with the Astros -- shot a single to right field to put runners at first and second with one out. When Amed Rosario hit a weak grounder back to the mound (57.5 mph exit velocity), Garcia fielded it easily and looked at Rosario, realizing he had a shot at a double play that would end the inning and leave the dangerous Ramírez on the on-deck circle. 

“It was difficult because I took the ground ball, and I knew it was a slow one,” Garcia said. “I saw second base and I saw the runner was almost on the base. I thought I made a mistake. It was the right choice, but I made a bad throw.”

Straw is one of the fastest runners in the league, a fact which Garcia knew all too well from being his teammate for 1 1/2 seasons. Still, he knew a strong throw to Altuve covering second would likely get an out and could lead to a double play. 

“I think in my mind, I had a doubt to throw to second, but I knew it was the right choice,” Garcia said. “It happened.”

The throw nearly hit Straw as he was sliding, and there was nothing Altuve could do considering Straw’s body was between him and the ball. Like Garcia, Altuve could only watch helplessly as the ball went into center field. When asked if he rushed the throw, Garcia gave an emphatic no. Baker agreed. 

“He had him at second base,” Baker said. “That was the play. Any time you can go for a double play, you go for a double play. It was an errant throw. We gave them three runs today.”

The homer by Ramírez two innings later came on a changeup in the outer half of the zone that wound up traveling 409 feet into the Astros bullpen, just past a leaping attempt by center fielder Jose Siri. A 4-0 Cleveland lead on a night the Astros bats were held to just four hits proved to be insurmountable. 

“I think it was a good pitch,” Garcia said. “He hit it well. I was surprised when I saw the exit velo [99.4 mph], but that’s OK.”