Houston's magic number stays at 1 after loss to the Angels

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 8-4 loss

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With their sixth straight win to start the series on Friday night to lower their magic number to one, the Astros had the power in their hands to clinch the AL West division with another victory on Saturday night at home against the Angels. Here is a recap of the middle game of the weekend series:

Final Score: Angels 8, Astros 4.

Record: 101-54, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Luke Bard (3-2, 4.50 ERA)

Losing pitcher: Wade Miley (14-6, 3.91 ERA).

1) Miley may have sealed his fate in another disappointing start

When it looked like Wade Miley had finally turned the corner from two horrible starts by going six innings and allowing just two runs in his last start, that one step forward was erased with two steps back. He could not piece together good enough pitches to keep the Angles off the bases, allowing a solo home run to lead off the game en route to an inning with three runs on three hits and a walk.

After hitting the leadoff batter in the top of the second then putting runners on first and third with no outs on a single, Miley would have the ball taken from him as A.J. Hinch would end his night and move on to let his bullpen try to keep them in the game. Miley's disappointing final line: 1.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 HR.

2) Houston's offense fights back as bullpen takes over

Jose Urquidy was the first reliever to come out of the bullpen, and he would finish the second inning for Wade Miley despite allowing an RBI-single to extend the lead to 4-0. Houston's bats went to work in the bottom half of that inning, starting with a leadoff solo home run by Yordan Alvarez before RBIs by Kyle Tucker and Martin Maldonado cut the lead to one run at 4-3.

Urquidy remained on the mound for a scoreless third inning and came back for the fourth inning as well, though would allow a two-out RBI-double to extend Los Angeles' lead to 5-3. Bryan Abreu was next to try and eat up some innings, throwing a perfect 1-2-3 fifth by striking out the side. In the sixth, Abreu would create trouble for himself by allowing a leadoff walk that would score on an RBI-single later in the inning, making it a 6-3 Angels lead.

3) Unable to clinch on the field

Chris Devenski was on the mound for the top of the seventh, and it was a quick one as he would retire the side on just twelve pitches. In the bottom of the inning, Kyle Tucker led off with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch, then score on a sacrifice fly by pinch-hitting Abraham Toro to cut the lead to two runs.

Joe Smith pitched the eighth, a seven-pitch 1-2-3 frame to keep it a two-run game. Hector Rondon would come in for the ninth but would watch a two-run home run by Los Angeles sail into the stands to extend the Angels' lead to 8-4 and get just two outs before Joe Biagini would get the final out of the inning. Houston would not overcome that deficit in the bottom of the night, keeping their magic number at 1.

Up Next: Houston and Los Angeles will conclude this series with the final regular-season game at Minute Maid Park this season on Sunday at 1:10 PM. The Angels are expected to start with a relief pitcher in Jose Rodriguez (0-0, 1.84 ERA) while the Astros will have Justin Verlander (19-6, 2.50 ERA) making his next-to-last regular-season start looking for win number 20 on the season.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan

What a week.The Rockets look terrible in losing consecutive games to losing teams, and that doesn't register as the tiniest ripple in the week's pond of Houston sports woe. Pond? More like ocean.

The Astros are irrefutably confirmed for all-time as cheaters and liars over a multi-season period. Jim Crane is no idiot, but specifically on the issue of whether the Astros' 2017 World Series championship is tainted, Jim Crane is an idiot if he really thinks it is not. Astro lackeys, toadies, and homers should stop the "a bunch of other teams did it too!" and "Mike Fiers is an a-hole" lameness. The Astros were guilty, caught, and deserved to get hammered. If/when others are proven as guilty as the Astros, so should they be hammered.

So after Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred's lowering of a rightful boom, and then Jim Crane firing Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch, what does it all mean for the 2020 Astros? It's a wow of a story, but really not a crisis. The loss of Gerrit Cole is much more meaningful. Luhnow's shoes are fairly easily filled for this season. Hence for now, Crane himself will head up baseball operations. The Astros weren't and aren't pursuing any meaningful free agents or major trades. Before his demise Luhnow finished the financial corner cutting moves that filled out the roster.

It's not as if Luhnow's personal expertise made all scouting, drafting, and signing decisions. And now the Astros have no first or second round pick to make this June anyway. 30 year old Pete Putila is the ranking baseball guy still employed by the club, but he is a branch of the Luhnow tree. If Crane's goal is the "housecleaning" he termed the Luhnow and Hinch firings as being, how can he promote a Luhnow lieutenant? Every front office in baseball has shrewd analytic minds, looking to move up. Crane can easily hire one of them.

As for field manager, Hinch was a great handler of people (well….with one kind of important exception) but this roster is strong enough to operate on autopilot to a good extent. Bench coach Joe Espada is highly regarded and been a finalist for other managerial gigs. But he was on Hinch's staff when cheating was ongoing in 2018. That seems pretty much disqualifying. Two known interviewees are quality options, though neither has skippered a team to the World Series. Buck Showalter was always extremely highly regarded, John Gibbons steered the Blue Jays to back-to-back American League Championship Series appearances in 2015 and 2016. Between those two I'd lean Showalter but either would be fine.

Remember The Texans

How thankful are Bill O'Brien and the Texans for the Astros' mess grabbing all the headlines not even 24 hours after the Texans' collapse in Kansas City? It's almost impossible to get blown out of an NFL game in which you lead 24-nothing. Almost. The Texans pulled it off! Won't that cute little AFC South Champion banner be extra cute when it hangs next season? Hangs like a dead man from a noose.

As I put it last week, the Chiefs' offense is better than the Texans' offense, the Chiefs' defense better than the Texans' defense, and the Chiefs' coaching better than the Texans' coaching. But the way the game played out was still preposterous.

If Travis Kelce had beaten Lonnie Johnson any worse than he did Johnson's name should have been legally changed to Rented Mule. J.J. Watt was essentially a zero. No tackles, no assists on tackles, no sacks, no quarterback hits. Are you going to pay 15 and a half million dollars to a 31 year old Watt after his three major injuries in the last four seasons. That's a yes.

At least we have clarity that the Texans must dedicate their first round pick to a pass rusher or a defensive back. Wait, they don't have a first round pick. Well, in 2021 then. Wait. Bill O'Brien traded that away too. Speaking of O'Brien…

Opting for the field goal on fourth and one up 21-0 early second quarter was not indefensible. However, O'Brien's explanation for doing so was pitiful. The fake punt? Most agree, dumb.But not absolutely indefensible. This was the O'Brien Is Not Fit For Command moment of the game: He needed to use a timeout, with 11:45 left in the fourth quarter, the Texans down 17, facing fourth and fourth and four, in Chiefs' territory, to decide to go for the first down rather than punt. A cinder block could have displayed the same game management IQ. O'Brien has three seasons left on his contract. Unless Cal McNair takes a decidedly different tack than his father did, O'Brien's job is as safe as any Supreme Court Justice's.

Speaking of Cal, since the loss he's been spotted as often and been as vocal this week as Alex Bregman.

Buzzer Beaters

1. So, if guaranteed the truth: For a million dollars is your bet Altuve was wearing something or not? 2. Alex Cora should be banned from ever again managing a Major League team. 3. Famous "scandals": Bronze-Teapot Dome Silver-Patty Smyth fronted band, had big hit with Goodbye to You Gold-Kerry Washington and the TV show.

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