Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images
After powering past the Brewers in the first of the two-game series, the Astros looked to get the mini-sweep on Wednesday night with Justin Verlander on the mound. Yordan Alvarez also sought to continue providing impact power in his third time in the lineup. Here is a quick rundown of the game:
Final Score: Brewers 6, Astros 3.
Record: 46-23, first in the AL West.
Winning pitcher: Adrian Houser (2-1, 2.49 ERA).
Losing pitcher: Cionel Perez (1-1, 5.40 ERA).
1) Verlander battles against the long ball while fanning career-high 15
One of the few blemishes on an otherwise great start to Justin Verlander's season: home runs. Verlander allowed a solo home run in each of the first two innings, making it 13 of his 15 starts that he has allowed a home run this season. He'd sit on the hook with the Brewers up 2-0 until the bottom of the fourth when Houston's offense was able to give him a lead.
He worked well with that lead through the middle innings, dominating the Brewers and allowing just one hit in the third through sixth innings. He had struck out six in a row before getting tagged with the third solo home run of the game in the top of the seventh, allowing the Brewers to tie the game 3-3.
Still, if you exclude the three solo home runs, he had a dominant night including hitting a new career-high in strikeouts. However, the three home runs would keep him out of contention for the win as his night ended after seven innings. Verlander's final line: 7 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 15 K, 3 HR.
2) Astros get some two-out magic in the fourth
In a 2-0 hole and with two outs in the bottom of the fourth, the Astros were able to string together some baserunners and take advantage to get on the board and take their first lead of the night. Yuli Gurriel started the sequence with a two-out single, followed by Yordan Alvarez who worked a walk.
Robinson Chirinos scored one on an RBI-single to cut the lead in half at 2-1, then Tony Kemp hit a ball that snuck into the left-center field corner around the Crawford Boxes to score two more and make it a 3-2 Houston advantage.
3) Bullpen holds Brewers back until the fourteenth
Ryan Pressly took over for Verlander to pitch the eighth inning, a scoreless frame with two strikeouts to keep the game tied at 3-3. After coming away empty-handed in the bottom of the eighth, Roberto Osuna took the mound for the top of the ninth to try and keep the game tied to the bottom of the ninth. He did so, but not without baserunners after he allowed two singles to put runners on the corners with one out, but was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to keep the Brewers from scoring.
That put the power in Houston's hand for the bottom of the ninth, but Milwaukee's bullpen would hold, forcing extra innings. In the top of the tenth, Will Harris provided another scoreless inning, retiring the Brewers in order. Myles Straw came in as a pinch-hitter to lead off the bottom of the tenth and worked a walk to get his speed on base. Straw looked to steal second base, but instead, a review overturned the call on the field, then a double play sent the game to the eleventh.
Josh James was the next arm out of the bullpen for Houston in the top of the eleventh and struck out the side, but the game would go on. In the top of the twelfth, Hector Rondon worked around a leadoff walk to keep the game tied, then still going in the thirteenth Cionel Perez came in and made it another 1-2-3 inning.
Perez would try to keep going in the fourteenth inning, but the Brewers would finally break the tie with a two-run home run and RBI-single to go up 6-3 which would go down as the final score to make the series a split.
Up Next: Houston will get their second day off this week with Thursday being another chance for them to rest. Friday they'll start a three-game series with the Blue Jays for Father's Day weekend. The first game of the series will be at 7:10 PM Friday and is expected to feature Gerrit Cole (5-5, 3.72 ERA) for the Astros opposite of Aaron Sanchez (3-7, 4.25 ERA) for Toronto. Cole will look to stay locked in after his seven-inning, fourteen-strikeout start last week.
The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.
After Houston fell to the Texas Rangers in Game 7 of the ALCS, the national media couldn't wait to pile on the Astros, their dynasty, and fanbase. A perfect example of this came from Dan Clark, who said the Astros choked or cheated in every season outside of 2022.
The Houston Astros have been great for nine years, but how will history look back at them, winning it all just once?
'15 - ALDS choke
'16 - Missed playoffs
'17 - Cheated
'18 - ALCS choke
'19 - World Series choke
'20 - ALCS choke
'21 - World Series choke
'22 - 💍
'23 - ALCS choke
— Dan Clark (@DanClarkSports) October 24, 2023
Clearly, this take is totally ridiculous. Every time a team loses, it doesn't mean they choked. Sometimes the other team is better, and you just got beat. However, if you asked most fans, they would probably tell you the Astros had some great opportunities and weren't able to cash in.
So, just for fun, let's go through Dan's list and discuss if he has a point. And these are just my opinions below. I'm sure plenty of Astros fans will feel differently, and that's fine. John and I don't agree on all of these in the video above, so be sure to watch for the full discussion.
With that disclaimer out of the way, off we go.
2015: These were the baby Astros. Nobody expected them to get to the division series against the Royals. Houston went 70-92 the previous season, so this was a big jump in 2015. They lost to the Royals in 5 games in the ALDS and Kansas City went on to win the World Series over the Mets, taking the series 4 games to 1. The Astros did lead this series 2-1, but lost Games 4 and 5 pretty convincingly. Not a choke.
2016: Didn't even make the playoffs, further proving 2015 wasn't a choke. This team wasn't ready yet. They exceeded expectations in 2015 and took a step back in 2016. Not a choke.
2017: Won the World Series. While Dan will say it doesn't count because they cheated, I say, at least they won. Houston fans are well aware the Dodgers and Yankees had their own style of funny business going on in the video rooms, too. At least the Astros didn't cheat AND lose that year. They won the title so clearly, not a choke.
2018: Boston won the most games in baseball during the regular season (108). They won the ALCS 4 games to 1 over Houston and went on to win the World Series. The ALCS series wasn't close, and Jose Altuve had knee surgery immediately following the season. Boston was later punished by MLB for cheating in 2018. Not a choke.
2019: He might have a point here. This was the best roster the Astros ever had in my opinion. Houston never won a home game in this World Series. Heading home with a 3-2 lead in the series, the Astros were unable to close the deal against the Nationals (sounds familiar). The Astros won 107 games in the regular season, more than any other team. The top of their rotation was Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke. They choked.
2020: This was the weird covid season. The Astros didn't have a winning record in the regular season and got down 3-0 to the Rays in the ALCS. Houston won three straight and lost in Game 7. Both Justin Verlander and Yordan Alvarez were injured and unavailable that year. Not a choke.
2021: The Braves were just better and won the World Series in 6 games. Atlanta hammered Houston 7-0 in Game 6, securing the series. Lance McCullers was the ace of this squad and hurt his arm in the ALDS. Verlander didn't pitch in 2021. Not a choke.
2022: Astros win the World Series in 6 games against Philly.
2023: This one I could be convinced either way. I lean to it not being a choke because this team barely made the playoffs, winning just 90 games. They finished with the same record as the Rangers, and won the division because of head-to-head record. The Astros were down 2-0 in the series to start.
However, they did return to Houston up 3-2 needing only 1 win in 2 games to advance. But once again, the Astros couldn't win a game at home, and lost the series in 7 games. They also went 2-14 with runners in scoring position in Game 7, so that looks pretty bad. Inconsistency plagued this team all season, and it showed up again in the ALCS.
I'm willing to say the 2019 World Series against the Nationals was a choke for the reasons I listed above. And I'm kinda on the fence about 2023. The Rangers were the better team for most of the regular season, but not winning 1 game at home in the ALCS is hard to ignore.
Maybe you can convince me one way or the other in the comments! Go 'Stros!