Duffy's 1st hit, RBI provide Astros needed jolt
HOUSTON -- Facing a two-run deficit in the sixth inning of Saturday's 10-6 win over Oakland at Minute Maid Park, Astros manager A.J. Hinch used rookie Matt Duffy as a pinch-hitter for the express purpose of hitting a potential game-tying home run.
Duffy fell a few feet short of leaving the park, but he still got the job done.
The win snapped a five-game losing streak and moved Houston to 1 1/2 games ahead of the Angels for the second American League Wild Card spot.
In fact, the rookie provided a burst of energy with his first career hit, not to mention an RBI double that trimmed Oakland's lead to 6-5 and set the stage for the ensuing comeback.
"That was obviously a moment I won't forget, coming off the bench like that and getting a hit to help the team get a big win," Duffy said. "You dream of getting a hit in the Major Leagues, and now it's a reality."
Duffy, who shares a name with the Giants' star rookie, was just called up on Sept. 14 and had all of three plate appearances before Saturday.
It was a breakthrough moment for Duffy, who has been a quiet presence since joining the team.
"I'm happy for that kid," Hinch said. "He's said five words since he's been up here. I think that was the first smile I've seen as he was coming off the field after [the hit].
"It put a lot of energy in our dugout. Everyone was just so happy for him."
He wasn't the only young Astros player with a milestone moment on Saturday.
Catcher Max Stassi notched his first career home run with a solo shot in the eighth inning. Stassi had all of 35 at-bats spread over three seasons prior to entering the game as a defensive substitute.
Both players managed to obtain the balls from their hits as keepsakes. Duffy's was going straight to his dad, Ed, who was in attendance.
It was also a nice moment for the longtime teammates at Triple-A Fresno. At least for Stassi, Duffy's key contribution was also unsurprising.
"It was a big hit in a clutch situation, and I've seen that from him all year in Fresno," Stassi said. "I couldn't be happier for the guy."
As much as anything, Hinch emphasized that it was the way Duffy managed to land his first hit that gave the team a jolt.
Duffy displayed some impressive foresight for a rookie, warming up prior to the inning in the tunnel between the Astros dugout and the clubhouse.
"I wanted to make sure I was ready," he said. "I just wanted to go out there and compete and battle."
No doubt he did, as Duffy fouled off four pitches and worked the count to 2-2 before sending a fastball into the left-center-field gap.
"It was a great at-bat by him," Hinch said. "That's the resiliency we've talked about all the time, and we needed it the most right there."