First-place Astros win 'big' one against KC

Houston salvages finale with 3-run 10th, maintains 2 1/2-game lead over A's

August 20th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- The importance of Thursday afternoon’s come-from-behind win wasn’t lost on Astros rookie outfielder , who recognized his team was a few innings away from what would have been a devastating four-game sweep at the hands of the last-place Royals.

Losing three of four to Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium -- another series loss to a team that’s well out of playoff contention -- certainly isn’t ideal for a Houston club with championship hopes, but rallying to win the finale, 6-3, in 10 innings allowed the Astros to remain 2 1/2 games ahead of the A’s atop the American League West standings and changed the mood of the club.

“This one was big,” said McCormick, who drove in three runs. “It’s just another game, but we really had to win this game today and avoid the sweep, and get some momentum on our side, get some energy on our side. Again, the Royals played really well. But today, we really needed this one coming back home. And it was good we got the win.”

That was literally music to the ears of manager Dusty Baker, who picked up his 100th regular-season win with Houston.

“It feels great to hear the guys in the clubhouse partying and booming the music,” the skipper said. “That’s how it is after victories. It seems like it’s been forever. The way that game started, it didn’t look like we were going to mount much offense. Boy, that was a big one to win, especially the fact the A’s won [5-4 over the White Sox] at the same time.”

The Astros, who entered the day a Major League-best 45-29 against teams .500 or above and just 25-21 against losing teams, snapped a four-game skid. The A’s also snapped a four-game losing streak, keeping the status quo atop the division for the fifth day in a row.

If there is any doubt about the AL West race going down to the wire, that’s likely decreasing by the day. The A’s suffered a tough setback when ace Chris Bassitt was struck by a line drive on Tuesday, but the Astros have been without star third baseman Alex Bregman for more than two months and starting right fielder Kyle Tucker missed his sixth game on Thursday. Starting pitcher José Urquidy has been out since June.

The A’s and Astros will face each other six times in the last nine regular-season games. Houston still has a more favorable schedule, but that means little to a club that’s been swept by the Orioles, Tigers, Rangers and Rockies (two games), and lost three of four to the Twins and Royals.

“We’ve got a ways to go,” Baker said. “To me, we haven’t played our best ball yet. Hopefully we get Breggy back soon. Slowly but surely, we’re trying to get whole. We’ve been missing some keys on our team and people want to know what’s wrong. What’s wrong a lot of times is when you’re missing your key guy. Nobody gives you any consolation for it and you don’t want to use it as an excuse. Any time I can play my first team against your first team, most of the time I’m going to win.”

After struggling to mount any offense against starting pitchers they hadn’t seen previously in the first three games of the series -- this was the first meeting between the Astros and Royals since 2019 -- Houston fell behind, 3-0, in the third against the familiar Mike Minor before clawing its way back into the game.

Aledmys Díaz (3-for-5) and McCormick hit back-to-back RBI doubles in the sixth inning to tie the game, and Díaz’s bases-loaded single in the 10th put Houston ahead. With that, the Astros headed home with the feel-good music blaring and perhaps some momentum.

“At the end of the day, we got the win,” Díaz said. “That’s the most important thing.”