Houston is now 3-3 on the year

Dodgers and Astros go deep into extras, Los Angeles comes out ahead to sweep series

Astros hat and glove
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Astros fall to the Dodgers in extras to lose series

Things escalated quickly in the first game of this series with benches clearing and emotions running high after Joe Kelly made his feelings known about the Astros with erratic pitches flying over Astros' heads. After more than enough opinions and statements made by fans and voices of the sport, things finally returned to the field on Wednesday between the Dodgers and Astros. Here is a quick rundown of the second of two games between Houston and Los Angeles:

Final Score (13 innings): Dodgers 4, Astros 2.

Record: 3-3, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Dennis Santana (1-0, 4.15 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Cy Sneed (0-1, 2.08 ERA).

Javier shines in his first career start

In his first start at the major-league level, Cristian Javier was fantastic. He made just one mistake through his first five innings of work, a pitch that resulted in a solo home run by Corey Seager in the top of the second to put Los Angeles up 1-0.

Javier was otherwise dominant, recording all other Dodgers in order through the first five frames, including eight strikeouts over that span. He returned in the top of the sixth, in a 1-1 game, and after a walk and single with one out, would get one more out before Dusty Baker would make the call to the bullpen. Blake Taylor would come in and get the final out to make Javier's line final: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 HR.

Slow offensive night for both teams as game stays tied 1-1 late

Houston's run that tied the game came in the bottom of the second. Michael Brantley led off the inning with a ground-rule double, moved to third on a groundout for the second out, then scored as Myles Straw legged out an infield single for the RBI to tie the game 1-1.

After Taylor would get the final out for Javier in the sixth, he would continue on the mound for a scoreless 1-2-3 seventh then remain in the game for the top of the eighth. He would allow a one-out double but would erase the runner with a strikeout and groundout to end the inning.

Dodgers pull ahead in extras to sweep the mini-series 

Still knotted up at 1-1 going to the top of the ninth with the Dodgers back around to the top of their lineup, the Astros moved to closer Roberto Osuna. He was able to get a 1-2-3 inning, giving the Astros a chance at a walk-off. Houston would strand two runners in the bottom of the ninth against Kenley Jansen, sending the game to extra innings to test out the new rules for 2020, where each inning would start with a runner on second base.

Osuna came back for a second inning in the top of the second and was able to keep the free runner on second with a 1-2-3 inning. In the bottom of the inning, Kyle Tucker would be the runner on second, but he too would be erased after an inning-ending double play. Moving on to the eleventh, Cy Sneed would be next out of the bullpen, and he would allow an RBI-single to Mookie Betts to break the tie in favor of Los Angeles at 2-1.

The Astros would respond in the bottom of the eleventh, starting with a leadoff single by Yuli Gurriel to put runners on the corners with no outs. That brought Carlos Correa to the plate, and he would deliver with an RBI-single to tie it at 2-2. Later in the inning, a botched review should have loaded the bases with one out, but instead had runners on the corners with two outs and would result in the game continuing to the twelfth.

Sneed was able to once again erase the free runner in the twelfth, retiring Los Angeles in order. George Springer, who pinch-hit earlier in the game and would be the final out of the eleventh, was on second to start the twelfth but would stay there as the Astros came up empty again, sending the game to the thirteenth. In that inning, Los Angeles would finally get to Sneed, getting a leadoff two-run homer to jump ahead 4-2, a score that would go final.

Up Next: The Astros will have their first day off of the 2020 season on Thursday as they travel to Los Angeles to start a weekend series with the Angels on Friday. The first of the three-game series will begin at 8:10 PM Central on Friday, and while Lance McCullers Jr. is the expected pitcher for Houston, the Angels have not yet named their starter for the game.

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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