HOUSTON -- For a second time this series, Chas McCormick was the hero at Minute Maid Park for the Astros. Two days after winning Friday’s game with a walk-off hit-by-pitch, McCormick crushed a 417-foot home run in the eighth inning to put Houston ahead for good in a 7-6 come-from-behind victory over the D-backs on Sunday afternoon.
The Astros entered the eighth trailing by two, but a pair of rookie outfielders -- Jose Siri and McCormick -- hit back-to-back homers to deep left field off D-backs reliever Brandyn Sittinger.
“The young guys are picking us up,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “That was one of the best wins we’ve had in a long time. If you’re going to be a championship team, you’ve got to have the art of coming back. You have to find a way, and today, we found a way.”
Siri wasn’t even expected to play Sunday, but he took advantage of the opportunity after being thrust into action as a midgame replacement for Kyle Tucker, who left with right shoulder discomfort. Siri’s two-run blast came off a slider, and he paused to soak in the moment before rounding the bases.
“I knew it was going to leave the park as soon as I hit it,” said Siri, who has homered three times in his past six games, via an interpreter. “I really liked that pitch, and I got it really well. It was great to take a second there and feel the energy [from the fans] in the park, and then look in the dugout and see all the guys excited.”
“It was nuts,” McCormick said of the eighth-inning celebrations. “The dugout was crazy.”
Since Siri had just belted Sittinger’s slider, McCormick wasn’t surprised when he got a steady diet of fastballs. He said his timing was slightly off on Sittinger’s first pitch, which he fouled, and the second was taken for a ball. On the third, McCormick was ready.
“Siri hit that slider pretty far, so I had a feeling he was going to come [with a] fastball to me,” said McCormick, who referred to his go-ahead homer as “top of the list” among moments in his young MLB career. “He threw it middle-in, and I put a good swing on it.”
For Houston’s offense, it was a game bookended by long balls. Carlos Correa hit a three-run blast off D-backs starter Zac Gallen in the first inning, and after scoring just one run over the ensuing six innings, Siri and McCormick jolted the Astros back to life when they needed it most.
To Baker, the rookies are a nice change of pace for the contending team led by high-profile veterans such as Correa and Jose Altuve.
“The young guys bring energy and excitement, just like your kids do,” Baker said. “They bring the silly stuff. That's the exuberance of youth. I've always liked the combination of the two. They bring you energy and life, and the veterans bring knowledge and wisdom.”
On the pitching side, veteran starter Zack Greinke struggled for a second straight start, allowing five runs in four innings. Greinke began the game with two scoreless frames, but he admitted postgame that he tired as his start moved along, punctuated by a four-run fourth for the D-backs that featured a streak of five straight batters reaching -- four on singles and the fifth via a walk.
But rookie Peter Solomon kept Houston within striking distance with four innings of one-run ball in relief. With Siri’s and McCormick’s late-inning heroics, Solomon was put in line for his first career win.
“Solomon kept us in the game,” Baker said. “Not only that, but he saved my bullpen, too.”
The Astros are on a 17-day stretch without an off-day, and the first two games of the series both went to extras. Moreover, Friday’s win was a bullpen game after injuries to starting pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Framber Valdez.
The lone usual bullpen piece to appear was Ryan Pressly, who closed out the ninth by striking out the side while securing his 25th save of the season. It was Pressly’s third straight day with a scoreless inning, which will likely make him unavailable for Monday’s road game against the Los Angeles Angels.
For the season, Sunday’s win improved the AL-West leading Astros to 88-61 and lowered their magic number to clinch the division to eight with 13 games left. It’s the sixth win in the last eight games for Houston, which appears to be rounding into ideal form as the postseason nears.
“We needed this one,” McCormick said. “Every game for the rest of the season is huge. It was big to get some momentum for this road trip.”