Cloud 9th: Astros stun Angels with 2-out magic
ANAHEIM -- When Jed Lowrie came off the bench in the ninth inning Sunday afternoon to deliver the Astros' biggest hit of the season, a three-run shot down the right-field line, a team that looked dead offensively for three games had come alive in magical, dramatic fashion.
There was rookie Preston Tucker socking another ninth-inning homer after the Astros were down to their last strike against Huston Street, there was George Springer legging out a triple on a liner to right field that got past a diving Kole Calhoun and Jose Altuve scoring Springer with a clutch hit. And don't forget the baseball gods smiling on Carlos Correa on an infield hit that stuck in Taylor Featherston's glove after the second baseman made a highlight-worthy diving stop, preventing him from making a throw on what could have been a game-saving play for the Angels.
The never-say-die Astros avoided a sweep by erupting for five runs in the ninth, capped by Lowrie's dramatic game-winner, to beat the Angels, 5-3, heading into a crucial four-game series against the second-place Rangers beginning Monday.
"That was an incredible, resilient effort, down to our last strike," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Tucker hits the homer. Then we just tacked on a couple hits and then the big home run."
The Astros were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position in the series prior to the Altuve single, which cut the lead to 3-2. Houston lost the first two games of the series by 3-2 scores, with all four of its runs coming on homers. They had plenty of traffic early Sunday against Angels starter Andrew Heaney, but they were down, 3-0, heading into the ninth.
"So it was very, very frustrating in the opportunities that we had, but we maximized every opportunity in the ninth," Hinch said.
Tucker, who hadn't played since Tuesday in Oakland, pinch-hit in the sixth and struck out, saying later the ball looked like it was coming at him at 100 mph. When he stepped to the plate in the ninth inning, Street had two outs and the Astros on the ropes.
"After I hit that home run, everyone kind of realized you get something going, we just had to get George on," Tucker said. "Once he got that hit, we knew we had the potential to win that ballgame. Everything clicked with the ball Carlos hit. He hit it about as hard as he could. And then we thought it was going to be the last out and he needed up getting a knock out of it, and things just went on from there. It was great for the team. We had a lot of momentum going and we'll carry it into the next series as well."
After Altuve put the Astros within a run at 3-2, Correa hit a scorching grounder, tracked at 111.2 mph by Statcast™, at Featherston, who made a great stop. Somehow, the ball stuck in his webbing and he couldn't remove it in time to make a throw. That set the stage for Lowrie.
"We hit the ball hard all series long and they got caught," Correa said. "At some point, it had to fall, and they fell in the ninth inning. It was big for us. It was a great win and gives us a lot of momentum going into the Texas series. We're really excited about this win. We'll be on the plane, happy going back to Texas with a lot of momentum to go play the Rangers."