HOUSTON -- In looking for the most pivotal moment in the Astros’ scintillating 9-8 win over the A’s on Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park, you can start where it ended -- Jose Altuve’s four-pitch, walk-off walk off relief ace Blake Treinen to force home Aledmys Díaz with the winning
HOUSTON -- In looking for the most pivotal moment in the Astros’ scintillating 9-8 win over the A’s on Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park, you can start where it ended -- Jose Altuve’s four-pitch, walk-off walk off relief ace Blake Treinen to force home Aledmys Díaz with the winning run.
“We don’t know how to celebrate a walk-off walk very easily,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “They were stripping Altuve’s clothes off and throwing powder on them. We’ll take a win any way we can.”
The fact that Treinen, who hadn’t allowed an earned run since Aug. 23, 2018 and is one of the most dominant relievers in the game, issued four of Oakland’s eight walks is remarkable enough to carry the headlines, but that would be doing a disservice to the heroics of Diaz, Tony Kemp, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa.
Here are five pivotal moments that allowed the Astros to sweep the A’s and get back to .500:
Diaz breaks out with homer
Diaz hadn’t played in a week, going 0-for-9 and committing a pair of errors in the first weekend of the season against the Rays, but found himself making his first career start at first base Sunday. He cranked a homer on an 0-2 pitch off Mike Fiers in the first inning that gave the Astros a 5-2 lead, and scored the winning run after getting a single in the ninth.
“That’s really, really good for him to sit out a whole week and come back,” Hinch said. “That was a frustrating start for him on a new team and to come up with the big homer early, the game could have played out where it’s wiped away. But he had the nice base hit at the end, too, to keep the ninth inning alive against one of the best closers in baseball.”
Correa’s relay throw
Correa, who made a great diving grab to rob Matt Chapman to start the ninth, fired an absolute laser from second base to Bregman at third to get Marcus Semien trying to stretch a double to a triple with no outs in the eighth. What made the throw, which followed a relay from right fielder Josh Reddick, even more remarkable is Diaz was a few steps ahead of Correa and tipped the throw as Correa was yelling at him to get out of the way.
Bregman’s sac fly
Bregman went 3-for-4 and recorded his only RBI on a sac fly in the eighth inning that scored George Springer from third with the tying run. Springer followed a Kemp homer with a bloop double and went to third on Altuve’s infield hit before sliding head-first across home plate just ahead of the throw from A’s center fielder Ramón Laureano, the strong-armed former Astros farmhand who already has three outfield assists this year.
“You’ve got to challenge him,” Hinch said. “I’ve seen the highlights, and George was one step fast enough.”
A’s reliever Lou Trivino had allowed only two base runners in 6 2/3 innings entering Sunday and proceeded to mow down the first four batters he faced when he came into the game in the seventh. Kemp burned him by turning on a 2-2 pitch and sending it 359 feet into the right-field seats to cut the lead in half and energize Minute Maid Park.
“He made some good pitches and thankfully it went over the fence and [Stephen] Piscotty didn’t rob it for a catch,” Kemp said.
Altuve’s walk-off walk
Treinen started off the at-bat against Altuve with a pair of 99-mph fastballs that almost hit him. The third and fourth pitch weren’t that much closer to the plate, giving Altuve his sixth walk-off RBI of his career and first since Aug. 16, 2015 against the Tigers. Altuve went 3-for-4 with two walks.
“The only thing you want right there is to get a good pitch to hit and try to put it in play,” Altuve said. “He threw a couple of pitches up and in. I knew he felt a little uncomfortable. He didn’t have his control in that situation so I kind of like was really, really focusing on the pitch I wanted and if not, just take it.”
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.