HOUSTON -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch texted outfielder Carlos Beltran on Saturday night "to see how his body was feeling for today's game."And?"He told me he could play because he wasn't my age," Hinch said.For the record, Beltran is 40, Hinch is 43. On the other hand, little things do
HOUSTON -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch texted outfielder Carlos Beltran on Saturday night "to see how his body was feeling for today's game."
"He told me he could play because he wasn't my age," Hinch said.
For the record, Beltran is 40, Hinch is 43. On the other hand, little things do decide plenty of games.
That conversation would turn out to be important because the Astros would need Beltran's 40-year-old legs to win.
• Beltran shows off motor in key 9th
Actually, they would need them twice. More on that later. They would also need the hot bats of Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman.
They would need Josh Reddick's temper -- yes, his temper -- and they would need a string of other solid at-bats against Blue Jays All-Star closer Roberto Osuna.
Finally, they would need catcher Juan Centeno lacing a single to right field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to complete a four-run rally and drive in the winning run in a 7-6 victory over the Blue Jays.
Right place, right time. Centeno had just joined the Astros last week when catcher Evan Gattis was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list. In his other stint with the club in May, he started two games and homered in each.
That's the kind of magical season it has been for the 71-40 Astros. This victory was the 11th time they've won a game in which they trailed by at least three runs, which says all sorts of good things about their resilience, resolve, etc.
Only thing is, their magic was in short supply the last couple of weeks as three 2017 All-Stars -- outfielder George Springer, shortstop Carlos Correa and pitcher Lance McCullers -- were placed on the disabled list.
The Astros showed up at Minute Maid Park on Sunday having lost six of eight games and were just 10-11 since the All-Star break. Their lead in the American League West had gone from 18 games to 15 in a space of 10 days.
And Sunday afternoon they were three outs from losing another, which isn't the sendoff they wanted for a three-city, eight-game road trip.
"We go from a pretty down flight to a pretty happy flight," Hinch said. "Our guys kept fighting."
Or as Bregman put it: "You look around the dugout before that [ninth] inning, and everybody wants to hit. Everybody wants the opportunity."
This is what happened. Altuve led off with his third hit of the day to raise his batting average to .364, tops in the Majors.
That's when it got interesting. Plate umpire Rob Drake rung up Reddick on an Osuna slider. Reddick disagreed. Vehemently. Loudly.
Reddick was ejected and watched the rest of the rally from the home clubhouse. But not before this teammates and a crowd of 36,300 fed off his energy.
"I think that was the frustration point," Reddick said. "Even the better teams go through rough patches every year. We were tired of waiting."
Yuli Gurriel and Marwin Gonzalez followed with singles. Then Beltran hit a bouncer to first baseman Justin Smoak and legged it down the line to beat out a rally throw from shortstop Ryan Goins that would have ended the game.
Had he been 41 or 42 instead of 40, who knows? One run scored on that play, and then Bregman, hitting .351 since July 4, got two more home by slapping a triple into the left-center gap.
Beltran scored the tying run, rumbling around third base and making it easily.
"I told him if he was my age he wouldn't have scored from first," Hinch said. "I'm glad he's three years younger."
"I give it everything I had," Beltran said. "The guys try to make fun of me, but at the end of the day, I'm happy to be able to contribute."
And then Centeno ended it.
This is a stretch when the Astros have had to dig deep into their farm system. Outfielder Derek Fisher, first baseman Tyler White, third baseman Colin Moran and Centeno have all had their moments.
For the 27-year-old journeyman, contributing in the heat of a postseason run is as good as he could have hoped the season would play out.
"I can't even describe the feeling," Centeno said. "I just put a good swing on it."
The Astros could get Springer (pulled quad) back this week, but it'll be awhile longer on Harris (shoulder), Correa (thumb) and McCullers (back). Until then, the Astros could have some more tough times.
"We're going to be conservative with these guys," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said.
He means that the standings give his team a cushion and that the hope is the Astros will be whole again for September and heading into the playoffs.
"No one's going to feel sorry for us," Hinch said. "We're going to continue to compete. I think the character in the room comes out in a game like this. Every team goes through something. The games don't stop. The season doesn't stop."
In the clubhouse, they took the whole thing in stride. They've won enough games and rallied from enough deficits to develop a sense of who they are and what they're capable of.
Still, it was another sweet moment in a season filled with them.
"I'm really proud of this team," Altuve said. "That tells you the kind of team we are."
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.