Astros persist with late rally, but topped in 10th
Houston nearly closes in on comeback win before losing lead late
BALTIMORE -- A 55-minute rain delay allowed the Astros to enjoy the euphoria of coming from behind in the ninth inning, defying the odds and putting themselves in position for what would have been their most improbable win of the year.
Unfortunately for the Astros, the rain eventually stopped, play resumed and their euphoria was replaced by heartbreak and disappointment.
Steve Clevenger doubled into the right-field corner to score J.J. Hardy from first base in the bottom of the 10th inning to send the Orioles to a 5-4 win over the Astros to cap a wild Saturday night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
"You've got to be able to close games out," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "We had three guys with an opportunity get it done and we didn't get it done."
The Orioles scored one run in five consecutive innings to end the game, tagging relievers Josh Zeid in the eighth inning, Anthony Bass in the ninth and Paul Clemens in the 10th. Bass blew the Astros' eighth save in 14 opportunities when the Orioles rallied, beginning with an infield hit by Jonathan Schoop and ending on an RBI infield hit by pinch-hitter Delmon Young.
"It's tough right now," Bass said. "We're in a little bit of a skid. My main focus is getting that W. It was unfortunate. I made good pitches to Schoop. Sometimes it happens. I just went out there and attacked the zone and unfortunately we ended up on the wrong side tonight."
The Astros made upgrading their bullpen a priority this offseason, which they did by signing veterans Chad Qualls, Matt Albers and Jesse Crain and acquiring Bass. But Crain and Albers are on the disabled list, and Porter said Qualls was unavailable because of sinus pressure.
"It's always tough when you lose guys that you anticipate being a certain portion of your team and now those guys are not a part and now you're trying to put other guys into those situations, but at the same time that's why it's called a team," Porter said. "It takes 25, and when you're called upon to do your job, you've got to get your job done."
Clemens recorded an out to start the 10th before giving up an infield hit to Hardy. Clevenger followed with a line drive into the right-field corner, and Hardy sped around the bases and slid home ahead of the throw for a walk-off win.
"I'm going as fast as I can and then I'm just going to pick up [third-base coach] Bobby [Dickerson] as I get to third and let him make the decision, and that's what I did," Hardy said. "I still haven't caught my breath."
Clemens, making his first appearance since getting called up Friday for the second time this year, said he couldn't command his fastball or get comfortable on the mound.
"It's very tough," he said. "I feel responsible. It's a ballgame we should win. We should win this type of ballgame. I have a chance right there to stretch this ballgame out and take it deep, but I couldn't get footing and couldn't command my fastball. I probably should have went to some offspeed to get myself comfortable, but it happened so quick it was over before I could blink."
The final few innings were a roller coaster of momentum, as the Orioles loaded the bases with no outs against Astros starter Collin McHugh in the seventh and managed only one run on a wild pitch to tie the game at 2. Tony Sipp and Zeid both recorded huge outs to end the inning.
McHugh, who allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings, hasn't lost faith in the bullpen.
"These guys are good down there," he said. "To have Sipp and Z come in and shut the door in what could have been an inning that gets out of hand, is huge."
Zeid gave up a solo homer to Nelson Cruz that allowed the Orioles to take a 3-2 lead in the eighth, but the Astros rallied in the ninth against closer Tommy Hunter. Jose Altuve's two-out, two-run single to right put Houston ahead, 4-3, just before the rain started to fall heavily.
Bass was given the ball to start the bottom of the ninth with a chance to close it out and got two quick outs before Schoop beat out an infield hit, Nick Markakis singled and Manny Machado walked to load the bases. Young hit a chopper over the mound that shortstop Jonathan Villar fielded behind second base and threw a tad late to first, allowing Schoop to score.
"We're in here in the clubhouse watching and it's infield hit, infield hit," McHugh said. "You feel like the breaks aren't going your way, but give it to those guys. They battled and swung the bats well. We don't quit. The breaks will start going our way and you'll see some W's, but it's tough right now."
And that made it more difficult to swallow for the Astros, that the game-tying run in the ninth reached base and came home via infield hits.
"They're ground balls, but at the same time you're feeling pretty good with two outs and nobody on base," Porter said. "To the Orioles' credit, they were able to rally to push a run across."