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.

Houston accused of more wrongdoing

New report of illegal sign-stealing puts Astros back under scrutiny

Jason Behnken / Getty Images

Back in 2017, the Houston Astros could be considered the darlings of the MLB. They helped pull a Harvey-ravaged city out of despair and into a celebration in a matter of months with the acquisition of Justin Verlander and subsequent World Series victory. The young team full of potential suddenly had the attention of not only fans but other MLB clubs and the league's front office.

On Tuesday, that attention reared itself yet again in a severely negative way, with the Athletic reporting (subscription required) that former-Astro Mike Fiers was alleging and confirming that his former team used illegal means to steal signs in their 2017 championship season. Fiers, along with three other anonymous sources with the team in 2017, claims that the team used cameras and other technology to monitor opposing catchers to relay signs to batters in real-time. The Astros have released the following statement:

"Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball. It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time."

While GM Jeff Luhnow had this to say:

Another negative blow to the team's reputation

This is not the first time the Astros have been under a microscope in recent years, the most recent being less than a month ago when assistant general manager Brandon Taubman taunted reporters in the Astros clubhouse following their ALCS series-clinching win. The Astros fumbled that event, coming out with a rebuttal against the reporter, which would eventually be retracted, and Taubman terminated from his employment.

Neither is this the first time the Astros have dealt with accusations of sign-stealing and other forms of cheating. In this year's ALCS, the Yankees complained about a "whistling" noise from Houston's dugout they believed to be a method of relaying pitches to batters at the plate. Also, in the 2018 postseason, the Astros found themselves under fire for having an employee taking photos of the opposing team's dugout.

It's just part of the game until it's not

Both pitch tipping and stealing signs are things that are nearly unavoidable in baseball. With the catcher having to relay a sign to the pitcher 60.5 feet away using his hands, the opposing team will inevitably try to decipher what's coming. The same is true of tipping, where if a pitcher has a tell before a specific pitch, that information will quickly spread through the dugout.

However, there is a line teams should not cross, and that comes by way of utilizing technology to aid further the ability to steal signs, and using that to give an immediate advantage to a batter amid an at-bat. The Astros are not the first team to be alleged of this type of grievance, as the Red Sox received a fine after utilizing a smartwatch to try and steal signs.

It's a widely known and accepted fact that teams will try anything within reason to get a leg up on their opponent. However, with technology ever improving both for organizations to use and be caught by, it's no surprise that this is becoming an issue that the MLB will have to deal with, and soon.

Ramifications could loom large

Will the Astros be found guilty and made an example of to deter other teams for trying similar tactics? It appears we will have to wait for the conclusion of this investigation to find out. While it may not be an indictment of the entire team, it will bring into question the integrity and character of many of the team.

Still, no matter the outcome, the report alone and continued negativity surrounding the Astros organization has made them villains of many, a role that many would not have expected this team to play if asked just two years ago.

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