Astros outlast Mets in wild back-and-forth finale

June 21st, 2023

HOUSTON -- When asked to single out the most important moment from a wild afternoon at Minute Maid Park, Astros manager Dusty Baker immediately recalled the diving catch in left field by to end the sixth inning, a play which saved the Mets from tying the game.

There were so many pivotal moments and plays in the Astros’ 10-8 win over the Mets on Wednesday that there would have been no wrong answer had Baker chosen another play, such as the two-run homers by and or a perfectly executed squeeze bunt by .

In a game in which both starters -- Cristian Javier of the Astros and Tylor Megill of the Mets -- were unable to finish three innings and the teams combined for 16 walks, Astros pitching regrouped to send down 11 of the final 13 Mets batters. Houston took two of three from New York to win the series -- a much needed triumph for a team headed out on a 10-game road trip.

“Our guys kept fighting and fighting and plugging away, and it seems like you’re almost afraid to score, because then they were going to score,” Baker said. “The guys were saying, ‘Shutdown inning,' but there wasn’t one really.”

Julks atoned for a misplay on a fly ball in the second inning that resulted in a two-run double by hitting a two-run single in the third and throwing out a runner from left field at second base in the seventh. But it was his diving catch of a Brett Baty line drive to strand the tying run at second to end the sixth that loomed largest.

“That was probably the biggest moment today for us -- to keep us with the lead,” third baseman Alex Bregman said.

Bregman went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, while Mauricio Dubón -- in his first career start at first base -- was 2-for-5 with two runs scored and two doubles. In addition to the homers by McCormick and Diaz, the Astros forced the issue on the bases by pulling off a double steal in the third and putting down a squeeze bunt in the seventh that made it 10-8.

That bunt came after Mets slugger Pete Alonso cranked a 432-foot home run in the sixth inning off Rafael Montero that cut the Astros’ lead to 9-8, but relievers Hector Neris (seventh inning), Bryan Abreu (eighth) and Ryan Pressly (ninth) held the Mets at bay.

“When we got up 10-8, I thought we had a chance with Abreu and Pressly coming in,” McCormick said. “That was a tough game. The Mets are a really good team. That was back and forth all day long. Those kinds of games, you’re going to mentally grind. We’re tired out there, we've got an off-day tomorrow, we've got a long flight after the game, and mentally, you have to push through -- and we did.”

Baker credited left-handed starter Framber Valdez, who threw eight innings Tuesday, with saving his bullpen and putting him in position to use six relievers Wednesday. That included Phil Maton, who threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings for the win. He entered the game in the fourth -- his earliest action of the season -- and helped slow down the Mets.

“In those situations, where it just seems like nothing is going right, you’re trying to load up the zone and force something to happen and get the ball in play,” Maton said. “Those are really tough games to pitch in and it’s one of those situations [where] you’re trying to limit the damage.”

Javier had the shortest start of his career, throwing 82 pitches in 2 1/3 innings. He gave up four runs on four hits and a career-high five walks. The Astros bailed him out by scoring four times in the third on the two-run single by Julks and McCormick’s homer to take a 6-4 lead, and the Mets tied it in the fourth on a two-run single by Daniel Vogelbach.

“I really don’t even know what to tell you what was going on today,” Javier said. “I was falling behind a lot of hitters and missing with a lot of pitches.”

Still, the Astros found a way to persevere with contributions from up and down the scorecard.

“It was nice to win yesterday, and even today it feels better going into the off-day and finishing off strong at home,” McCormick said. “It was huge to win two in a row and get some momentum.”