Astros lose in extras to the Angels

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

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

After finishing the season series with the Mariners with a two-game mini sweep to finish 18-1 against Seattle and get a franchise-best 104th win, the Astros traveled to Anaheim for the final series of the regular season. Here is a quick look at the first of four games this weekend against the Angels:

Final Score: Angels 4, Astros 3.

Record: 104-55, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Trevor Cahill (4-9, 6.04 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Joe Biagini (3-2, 4.59 ERA)

1) Less than impressive start for Miley

Wade Miley's security in the playoff rotation was certainly in question going into Thursday night. He did not help his case in the first inning, allowing two runs on two hits and a walk to give the Angels an early 2-0 lead. He followed that up with a one-run second after giving up a leadoff double that would later score on a sacrifice fly to extend Houston's deficit to 3-0.

To his credit, he would settle in and throw two scoreless innings after that, but four innings while allowing three runs did not instill the kind of confidence needed to secure his place alongside Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Grienke in Houston's rotation for the 2019 postseason. His final line: 4.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 0 HR.

2) Houston ties it up

The three runs allowed by Miley would luckily not net him a loss; thanks to some big hits from his young teammates. First, Kyle Tucker hit a one-out solo home run in the top of the fourth, his second in as many nights, to cut the lead to two at 3-1. In the next inning, a leadoff walk set up Jack Mayfield for a game-tying two-run home run to put the teams at three apiece.

The game remained knotted up at 3-3 for a while, with Brad Peacock taking over for Miley in the fifth inning and starting the sixth before being lifted for Bryan Abreu who finished that inning. Joe Smith was next out of Houston's bullpen and threw a 1-2-3 scoreless bottom of the seventh.

3) Angels win in extras

Houston had a chance in the top of the eighth, getting runners on first and third with one out. They brought in Yordan Alvarez as a pinch-hitter who took a four-pitch walk to load the bases. George Springer pinch-hit next but would ground into an inning-ending double play to keep the game tied. Josh James was on the mound in the bottom of the eighth and worked around a two-out single for a scoreless inning. With the Astros coming up empty in the top of the ninth, Hector Rondon tried to send the game to extra innings with a scoreless bottom of the inning and did so.

In extras, Houston had chances in the first two innings, including loading the bases with one out in the eleventh but coming up empty. Chris Devenski, meanwhile, was able to provide two scoreless innings on the mound to keep the game locked at 3-3. Josh Reddick led off the top of the twelfth with his fifth hit of the game, a double to get a runner in scoring position at a pivotal part of the game. The Astros would go on to load the bases with two outs, but once again strand all three runners. Joe Biagini pitched the bottom of the inning, allowing a leadoff walk that would ultimately come around to score in a walk-off win for the Angels.

Up Next: Game two of this series will be Friday at 9:07 PM. Jose Urquidy (1-1, 4.63 ERA) will get another chance to try and impress as he is given a start on the mound for the Astros going opposite of Patrick Sandoval (0-3, 5.25 ERA) for the Angels.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

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Mattress Mack and the Astros host Pearland Little League at Wednesday night's game. Photo by LittleLeague.org

Sure, it’s impressive that the Astros have made four World Series appearances in recent years, but they’re not alone. There’s another baseball team around here that’s also headed to its fourth World Series since 2010.

Pearland defeated Oklahoma, 9-4, on Tuesday to win the Southwest Regional and qualify for the Little League World Series starting Aug. 17 in South Williamsport, PA.

Most fans and media say the Little League World Series is held in Williamsport, but it’s South Williamsport, just a 5-minute stroll across a bridge over the Susquehanna River in north central Pennsylvania.

Pearland is on a torrid 13-game winning streak that swept through district, sectional, state and regional tournaments to earn the Little League World Series bid.

Here’s how difficult the road to the Little League World Series is. There are 15 teams in MLB’s American League. If the Astros finish with one of the two best records, they’ll have to win two playoff series to play in the World Series.

Little League is a little bigger than MLB. Little League is the largest youth sports organization in the world, with 2.5 million kids playing for 180,000 teams in more than 100 countries on six continents.

Pearland, representing East Texas, had to defeat All-Star teams from West Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas and Colorado to win the Southwest Regional. The Little League World Series will host 20 teams - 10 from the U.S. and 10 from international regions.

If you have children that play Little League, or you’re just a fan, attending the Little League World Series should be high on your baseball bucket list.

I covered the Little League World Series in 2010 when Pearland made its first appearance and made it all the way to the U.S. championship game. It may have been my most fun assignment ever.

The Little League World Series is played by 11 and 12-year-olds in Little League’s major division. When ESPN and ABC air these games, they’ll present the players as innocent little kids, like Beaver and Wally or Tom and Huck. They’ll show the kids playing Simon Says with the Little League mascot called Dugout. They’ll ask the kids who’s their favorite big leaguer.

I was a Little League coach. I followed Little League All-Stars across Texas all the way to South Williamsport. These kids are absolute baseball maniacs with $400 gloves, $500 bats and Oakley sunglasses. I thought the Astros might call and ask where they got their super neat equipment.

Especially in Texas, these kids are built tough with long ball power and play year-round travel baseball with high-priced private coaches. This isn’t a choose-up game in the park where kids play in their school clothes, one kid brings a baseball and the players share bats. I looked at some of the Little Leaguers and wondered if they drove to the stadium.

I half-expected, when ABC asked who their baseball idol was, they’d answer “me!”

Here’s how seriously good these kids can play the game. Justin Verlander throws a 97-mph fastball. That’s pretty fast. It’s not rare anymore for a Little League pitcher to reach 70-mph on a fastball. The Little League mound is 46 feet from home plate. A 70-mph pitch in Little League gets to home plate in the same time as a 91-mph pitch from 60 feet 6 inches in MLB.

In 2015, a pitcher named Alex Edmonson fired an 83-mph heater at the Little League World Series. The reaction time a Little League batter had against Alex’s pitch was equal to a Major Leaguer trying to hit a 108-mph fastball. Good luck with that. Alex pitched a no-hitter and struck out 15 batters in six innings at the Little League World Series. Now 20, Alex is a relief pitcher for Clemson.

The Little League World Series is a trip. The easiest way to get there is to fly into Philadelphia and drive to South Williamsport. I sat next to CC Sebathia’s mother on the plane.

Admission to all Little League World Series games is free and snack bar prices are reasonable. A hot dog is $3. Alcohol and smoking are prohibited.

The first Little League World Series was held in 1947. Only 58 players have played in the Little League World Series and later played in MLB. The most famous are Cody Bellinger and Jason Varitek. Only two players from the Houston area made the leap: Brady Rodgers and Randal Grichuk both played on the 2003 team from Richmond, about 30 miles from Houston in Fort Bend County.

While you’re in South Williamsport, you should visit the Little League museum and Hall of Excellence. Among the inductees: Presidents Joe Biden and George W. Bush, Astros manager Dusty Baker, Kevin Costner, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dick Vitale, Rob Manfred and someone who’d later play stadiums in a different way, Bruce Springsteen.

Speaking of Springsteen, I shattered a record at the 2010 Little League World Series. The record was Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. I was talking to a Little League executive while teams were warming up on the field. Born in the U.S.A. came over the stadium loudspeakers.

I told the executive, I’m a big fan but maybe this isn’t the best song you should be playing. The executive asked why not? Well, you might want to listen to the words. Born in the U.S.A. is a depressing song about a U.S. soldier who is sent to Vietnam and can’t find a job when he gets back home. It’s not exactly Yankee Doodle Dandy. You have teams from Asia here (Japan won the tournament that year). The executive said, please tell me you’re kidding. Here’s one verse:

Got in a little hometown jam

So they put a rifle in my hand

Sent me off to a foreign land

To go and kill the (what is considered a slur for Asians).

Later I got an email from the president of Little League International.

“Quite honestly, I've never listened closely to the words of Born in the USA. I see clearly how it is offensive to our Little League friends from Asian nations. I have directed our folks who coordinate the stadium music to discontinue playing it in the future.”

Play Centerfield by John Fogerty instead. The message of that song is, “put me in coach.” Little League couldn’t say it any better.

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