Cabbage's near-robbery, Altuve's huge day not enough for Anaheim sweep

June 10th, 2024

ANAHEIM -- Astros left-fielder , appearing to make a spectacular catch at the wall in the ninth inning Sunday afternoon to preserve a tie, reached into his glove and discovered that he no longer had the ball. His catch turned out to be a no-catch, with the ball coming out of his glove and landing at the feet of an ecstatic fan.

That led to a moment of confusion in which batter Logan O’Hoppe appeared to pass runner Kevin Pillar on the bases, but it didn’t matter. The ball was in the seats -- a two-run, walk-off homer for O’Hoppe and a stunning 9-7 loss for the Astros, who blew a pair of leads and a chance to secure a three-game sweep at Angel Stadium.

“I had it in the glove and when I hit the brick behind the pad, it just flipped out,” Cabbage said. “But I had it.”

It was that kind of day for the Astros, who grabbed a 7-4 lead in the sixth inning when cranked a two-run homer -- one his four hits on the day. But the Angels rocked Houston’s bullpen for five runs in four innings, including two runs off in the eighth to tie the game and two off on O’Hoppe’s walk-off homer.

“I felt like I was executing pitches,” Hader said. “It was a 0-0 pitch, a slider. He might have been sitting slider and he just caught me. It sucks. No one wants to lose in walk-off fashion, but at the end of the day that was what my gut told me [to throw]. If you want to nitpick, I probably could have thrown it more arm side and down, but what are you going to do?”

While the Angels were celebrating and fireworks were popping, Astros manager Joe Espada came onto the field to perhaps appeal to the umpires that O’Hoppe had passed Pillar on the bases, but the point was moot. Even if O’Hoppe did pass Pillar and was ruled out, Pillar still would have scored the winning run.

“It was bizarre,” O’Hoppe said. “I thought [Cabbage] caught it at first. It was a hell of a play. To even get a glove on it was impressive. Selfishly, I’m happy it dropped.”

The Astros trailed by a run entering the sixth before they strung together four consecutive hits after two outs, capped by Altuve’s Statcast-projected 406-foot homer to left field off Hunter Strickland. Altuve recorded his first four-hit game of 2024 and 39th of his career.

“I’m probably trusting myself more,” he said. “When you get in-between and panic about hitting, I don’t think good things are going to happen. Today, I just went out there and looked for my pitch and trusted my hands and got good results.”

Astros third baseman Alex Bregman was struck on the left hand by a sinker five pitches after the homer and had to leave the game prior to the bottom of the sixth, which set off a chain of events in which Mauricio Dubón moved from left field to third base and Cabbage entered the game in left and had a chance to play hero.

“I feel like I should have made the play, but I didn’t,” said Cabbage, who was traded from the Angels in January.

Astros starter Justin Verlander was in position for his 261st career win after allowing four runs and seven hits in five innings -- the second game in a row he’s had that exact line -- before the bullpen let it get away. He said his mechanics and location and probably everything has been a little off.

“You’re always trying to get on a good run and find your consistent mechanics and stay there as long as you can,” he said. “Not being able to do that for a couple of starts in a row is not what you want to do. You’re definitely making it hard on yourself.”

Pressly gave up doubles in the eighth to O’Hoppe and Zach Neto and both eventually scored to tie the game. The blown save is the fifth of the season for Pressly, who maintains the confidence of his manager.

“We’re going to continue to rely on him,” Espada said. “He’s one of our guys. He’s a big part of our bullpen, and I believe in him. He has gotten big outs for us in the past and he will [again].”