Astros fall short in bid for comeback win
HOUSTON -- When the Astros loaded the bases with one out in the ninth inning while trailing by one run on Sunday afternoon, manager Bo Porter was certain his team was at least headed for extra innings against the Indians, if not on the verge of its first walk-off win.
"In that situation there, you're thinking you're going to at least tie the game," he said.
Astros outfielder Chris Carter had a chance against Indians closer Chris Perez and struck out swinging, and catcher Jason Castro followed with a hotshot grounder to third baseman Mark Reynolds, who threw across the diamond for the final out to give the Indians a 5-4 win at Minute Maid Park.
The lack of clutch hitting in the ninth inning sort of summed up the game for the Astros, who went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and failed to score in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings despite getting the leadoff runner on base each time.
"You obviously want to capitalize and win games like this," Porter said. "Unfortunately we came up short, but we definitely had our opportunities. We had chances and we didn't capitalize."
When it came off the bat, Castro's grounder appeared headed into left field before Reynolds smothered it.
"Luckily, by the time I looked, [Mark Reynolds] had already scooped it up," Perez said. "It was a bullet. I was happy I didn't turn around and see it in the outfield. [Reynolds] made a great play."
The Astros, who have lost seven of eight games, could have used a pick-me-up after winning the series opener against the Indians on Friday before being routed, 19-6, on Saturday. They still had a chance to win the series, though, when Castro came to the plate in the ninth.
"I put good wood on it and unfortunately he was shifted into the hole a little bit and it was within reach," Castro said. "It's frustrating to have a good at-bat and not really have anything to show for it, but we did a great job that last inning against their closer to put something together."
The Indians did most of their damage with the long ball, getting four solo homers --- Yan Gomes in the second, Carlos Santana in the fifth, Drew Stubbs in the sixth and Reynolds with the game-winner in the seventh that broke a 4-4 tie. The Reynolds homer was the only base runner reliever Hector Ambriz allowed in two innings of work.
The Astros, who got a two-run homer from Fernando Rodriguez in the first inning, wasted a chance to tie the game in the seventh. Rick Ankiel and Matt Dominguez began the inning with singles, but Marwin Gonzalez struck out trying to put down a bunt, Jose Altuve grounded out to move the runners and Carter struck out looking.
"In that situation, you have to put a ball in play there or get a sac fly and get a runner in so he ties the game instead of striking out on a tough pitch," said Carter, who had a pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the sixth inning.
But it was the Gonzalez at-bat that loomed large. Porter later said he had taken off the bunt sign after Gonzalez had fouled off a pair of pitches, but the shortstop wound up bunting the third strike foul and not moving the runners.
"Marwin decided on his own to try to lay it down," Porter said. "I talked to him about it, and he said, 'Bo, I wanted to try to get it down.'"
Gonzalez understood the significance of the sequence.
"It was tough," he said. "I think that was the key to the game. We lost the game that inning."
Castro led off the eighth with a single but was stranded at second. Ankiel doubled to start the ninth and Dominguez was hit by a pitch, putting the potential winning run at first base with no outs. Gonzalez successfully executed the sacrifice bunt this time, and the Indians walked Altuve to load the bases for Carter and Castro.
"We need to keep having those good situational at-bats," Castro said. "That's what is going to be key for us moving forward, is for us to capitalize. It's nice for us get hits with nobody on base and that's how things start, but it's really important when guys are in position to get guys over and in any way you can. That's something we'll continue to improve on."
Astros starter Erik Bedard, who recorded only one out in his previous start Monday in Oakland, threw 75 pitches in four innings, allowing six hits and two runs while striking out eight batters. Porter said the Astros are keeping the lefty on a short leash while he builds up his pitch count.
"Erik has some injury history and we're going to do everything we can to make sure we monitor his workload and continue to build him up going forward," he said.
Brett Oberholtzer made his Major League debut in relief of Bedard and allowed three hits and two runs in two innings.