Astros manage win on 'uncharacteristic' night

Six-run fourth inning aids Houston after rare defensive miscues

September 11th, 2021

HOUSTON -- Not all wins are created the same, and the Astros would probably agree that their 10-5 win over the Angels on Friday at Minute Maid Park might be remembered mostly as a “what not to do” lesson as they inch toward October. 

The pitching wasn’t particularly on point. The defense on both sides was shaky at best, with the Astros outnumbering the Angels in errors, four to one. 

But the one component that worked for the Astros was one that often springs to life this time of year: the offense. Friday’s win featured contributions from three players in particular who are usually in the middle of breakout games like this one, and while Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa were not responsible for all of the damage, they accounted for most of it with three hits apiece.

Every time the Angels threatened to inch back into the game, as they did when they plated two runs in the fourth to take a one-run lead, the Astros hitters swatted them away with their signature relentlessness at the plate. It helped dull the sting of a poor night in the field that helped the Angels stay afloat for probably longer than they should have.  

“You’d rather win ugly than lose pretty,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Tonight, we were uncharacteristic, making errors, but we kept battling and added on and added on.”

A lively bottom of the fourth proved to be the difference-maker. The Astros sent 11 men to the plate and scored six runs -- all with two outs as they chased AL MVP front-runner Shohei Ohtani from the game. The inning also featured five hits, a walk, a wild pitch and a catcher’s interference.

“It was huge, especially after a terrible game defensively that we had,” Correa said. “To be able to score all those runs, at the end of the day, it's about wins and losses. We were able to win that game.” 

The win assured the Astros they would maintain their stronghold in the American League West, where they lead the A’s and Mariners by 5 1/2 games. 

“We had to overcome the mistakes that we made,” Baker said. “You can’t dwell on things from the past. We really started swinging the bats there. They helped us with a couple of walks, which were big. It was great to see the guys having some fun and swinging the bats.”

Most of that fun happened in the lengthy fourth. The inning opened with Ohtani plunking Aledmys Díaz on the arm. Ten batters later, Díaz singled off reliever Andrew Wantz, who had replaced Ohtani after Altuve logged a game-tying RBI single. 

Ohtani’s 3 1/3 innings of work marked his second-shortest outing of the year.  

“We got lucky today that his splitter was not sharp,” Correa said. “When his splitter is working, especially with two strikes, it's tough to get to him. Today, it didn't seem like he had it. Today, he relied more on the slider, and that's what we pretty much see every day -- fastball, sliders. So we were able to make better adjustments against him.”

Bregman, in his 13th game since returning from the injured list, was right in the middle of it all. His two-run double off Wantz capped a three-hit night that extended his hitting streak to 10 games. Since coming off the IL, the third baseman is hitting .404 (19-for-47) with 11 RBIs.

“He can hit,” Baker said. “And he knows he can hit. His swing is so short and compact. He really works on it and doesn't get out of whack very often. He’s come back big for us.”

This hot streak is different from others in the past. Bregman missed two months with a quad injury, and the Astros would welcome any sign that he’s almost, if not fully, back to normal. Friday’s game might have been the strongest indication yet, and not just because of what he did at the plate.

Bregman said coming around to score from first in the third inning on Yordan Alvarez’s double “was the best part" of his day.

“Being away, you lose that competitiveness that we all love, and just to be able to be on the field competing with the guys, trying to help win games has been the most fun thing,” Bregman said. “I just missed baseball so much. It's good to be back.”