While the Astros wait for a large chunk of their core to return from the COVID-19 injured list, the games still must go on. That opens the door for younger, less proven players to see some game action, and on Friday, several of them did exactly what manager Dusty Baker asked of them before the game – “rise to the occasion.”
The 6-7-8 hitters in the Astros’ lineup in the opener in Seattle on Friday aren’t yet household names, but they provided a lift for an offense lacking quite a bit of star power. It wasn’t enough to help the Astros end their losing streak -- that extends to six, with their 6-5 loss to the Mariners at T-Mobile Park -- but select individual performances shone a bright light on organizational depth that could bode well for the future.
Taylor Jones and Alex De Goti made their marks in this game, scoring four of the Astros’ five runs, while accounting for three of the Astros’ seven hits. They were right in the middle of the Astros’ three-run fifth inning, that, at the time, looked like it might have been enough to end this losing streak.
“We played a good game. The rookies, they all had good games,” manager Dusty Baker said. “So, yes, [the loss] stung a lot, and it hurts, a lot.”
The game was cruising early. José Urquidy allowed just three baserunners through his first four innings, and on the other side, Yusei Kikuchi was nearly perfect. It wasn’t until the fifth when the kids started chipping away at the Mariners starter.
Carlos Correa got things rolling, logging the Astros' first hit -- a single to center -- on Kikuchi’s 40th pitch of the game. From there, the door swung open. Jones, a Seattle-area native playing in front of a slew of friends and family, drew a walk, and De Goti, making his big league debut and also playing in front of more than a dozen loved ones, logged his first big league hit and RBI with a single to right, against the shift, driving in Correa.
De Goti scooted up to second on a throwing error by Dylan Moore and, hearing the joy coming from his personal cheering section, sent a fist pump back while soaking in the moment.
“It was kind of emotional when I got on second base,” De Goti said. “To be able to step on this big league field and help my team try to win today … unfortunately, we didn't come out on top, but just trying to help them win.”
De Goti, who also singled in the seventh, said he “shed a lot of tears” prior to the game.
“Just a very, very emotional experience for me,” he said. “Just blessed to be able to go out there and share the field with some of these superstars on our team and just try to help them win and win a World Series.”
The 26-year-old De Goti, a 15th-round selection by the Astros in the 2016 Draft, was one of several players summoned from the alternate training site when five from the Major League roster were placed on the COVID-19 injured list earlier this week. The fact that he was debuting in the complete opposite corner of the country from where he grew up did not deter his fan club from trekking to Seattle to watch this in person.
In total, 16 people flew from Miami to watch De Goti’s debut, a list that includes his parents, grandparents, two brothers, a college coach, plus friends and former teammates.
“It's definitely something very emotional for me and especially for my family and I, to be able to just come out here and play this game that I've dreamed to play my whole life,” De Goti said.
The game didn’t have the ending the Astros had envisioned -- those hopes were dashed the second Ty France’s game-winning single off Ryan Pressly left his bat. But for two still unknown rookies, the night was not a lost one.
“It does a ton for their confidence, especially at the big league level,” Baker said. “Everybody is pulling for them to do well and to help us win. They did an outstanding job tonight.”