Tough loss for Houston

Astros force extras before Rangers walk it off in series opener

Astros' Tyler Ivey
Tyler Ivey made his MLB debut Friday night. Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Tyler Ivey made his MLB debut Friday night.

After starting this road trip with a 2-1 series win over the Oakland A's to regain the lead in the AL West, Houston returned to Texas to face another division opponent: the Rangers at Globe Life Field. After trailing most of the game, the Astros would tie the game late, forcing extra innings, but the Rangers would pull out the win in the tenth to hand Houston the loss.

Final Score (10 innings): Rangers 7, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 26-19, tied for first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Taylor Hearn (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (2-3)

Tyler Ivey makes his debut

Making his major-league debut close to his hometown of Rowlett, Texas, Tyler Ivey tried to make it a memorable first start. While it wasn't an incredibly impressive outing, he could still provide his team some innings, though allowed a few runs. The first came on a solo home run by Brock Holt in the bottom of the third, then two more came in the bottom of the fourth on a two-RBI double by Adolis Garcia, bringing in two runners that reached on a walk and a single.

He returned in the bottom of the fifth, allowing a leadoff single before getting his last two outs as Dusty Baker would go to his bullpen to bring in Kent Emanuel to face some Texas lefties. Emanuel would allow an RBI single to his first batter, with the run charged to Ivey, making his debut line: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 79 P.

Houston's offense starts slow before clawing back into it

Houston managed to bring in just one run over that span, getting runners on base to set up an RBI fielder's choice by Aledmys Diaz in the top of the second. Still down 4-1 in the top of the seventh, the Astros wasted a golden opportunity, getting the bases loaded against Texas' bullpen with Kyle Gibson finally out of the game but stranded all three runners.

After Emanuel finished the fifth, he returned for one out in the sixth before Joe Smith would finish that frame. Brandon Bielak was next out of the bullpen, tossing a scoreless bottom of the seventh. Houston clawed back into it in the top of the eighth, getting RBI hits from Carlos Correa and Jason Castro to get back within a run at 4-3. Jose Altuve then tied the game, getting an RBI single to extend his hitting streak to fifteen games and knot things up 4-4.

Astros go ahead, but Rangers walk it off

Brooks Raley entered to try and keep it a tie game in the bottom of the eighth. He did his job, retiring three batters on nine pitches to send things to the ninth. After getting two on base in the top of the inning but coming away empty, the Astros brought in Ryan Pressly in the bottom of the ninth to try and force extra innings, which he would do. Carlos Correa began the top of the tenth on second base as the free runner, and with one out, would score from there on a groundball turned error, putting Houston one run ahead and leaving runners on the corners.

They would strand those two runners and brought in Bryan Abreu in the bottom of the inning to try and finish things off. After a sac fly moved the free runner to third, Abreu would get a strikeout for the second out. A two-out walk brought Garcia to the plate for Texas, who would hit a walk-off three-run homer, handing Houston a loss to start this series.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will be a 3:05 PM Central start on Saturday. Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.70 ERA) will look to get his sixth quality start in a row for the Astros, while the Rangers will send Jordan Lyles (2-3, 5.93 ERA) to the mound.

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The Astros host the Orioles on Friday night. Composite Getty Image.

Say it with me: The Astros aren’t dead yet. The Astros aren’t dead yet. The Astros aren’t dead yet! The odds favor them missing the postseason for the first time since 2016, but they definitely aren’t dead yet. Too much season left.

The Astros sure hope they hit their season standings rock bottom in falling 10 games back of Seattle in the American League West Tuesday. Two wins over the hapless White Sox later, coupled with two Mariner losses in Cleveland, and the deficit is eight going into the weekend. The Astros’ real race may be for a Wild Card. On that front they sit six games behind Minnesota, six and a half back of Kansas City. The Twins and Royals currently hold the second and third Wild Card slots. The Astros also trail Boston by five games.

The Astros’ season needs some positive jolts if it is not to slip away. A shot at one comes Friday night with pitcher Jake Bloss called up from Double-A Corpus Christi for his Major League debut. He is merely tasked with facing the best offense in the AL as the Baltimore Orioles visit Minute Maid Park this weekend. Bloss was the Astros’ third round draft pick last summer. He turns 23 on Sunday. He started well this season at High-A Asheville earning the move up to AA. As a Hook, Bloss was spectacular in posting a 1.61 earned run average over eight starts with a scant 19 hits allowed over 44 2/3 innings. Bloss gets the fast big league call out of necessity (with Justin Verlander on the injured list), because he excelled, and because the Astros have no significant pitching prospect knocking at the door from Triple-A Sugar Land. Not one guy in the Space Cowboys’ rotation has given up fewer hits than he has thrown innings. The Pacific Coast League is a hitters’ league, but that is a damning stat.

Blame game

With the Astros’ season a big fail to this point, it is the nature of the beast for some to call for the head(s) of Manager Joe Espada and/or General Manager Dana Brown. Espada has certainly not distinguished himself as some brilliant rookie skipper, but blaming numerous lackluster player performances on him is classic scapegoating. Brown is in his second season and does have a couple of stains on his early record, but the foremost task Brown was charged with at hire was rejuvenating the Astros’ weak farm system. It takes two or three draft classes to infuse some depth of young talent. If the Astros are sellers as the trade deadline approaches, selling is another avenue through which Brown tries to add good prospects.

Brown picked Bloss. Brown’s first first round pick was shortstop Brice Matthews who also recently earned promotion to Corpus Christi. If Jeremy Pena doesn’t show improvement, and if Matthews is fulfilling his potential, he could be challenging for the shortstop job by the end of next season. 2023 second round pick, pitcher Alonzo Tredwell, has been bad so far with the Low-A Fayetteville Woodpeckers.

Midsummer Classic

The first phase of All-Star balloting ends Thursday at 11AM Central Time. The Astros’ representation on the American League team is simple: three definites and one maybe. Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, and Yordan Alvarez all rightfully are poised to be elected starters. Altuve has to hold off the Rangers’ Marcus Semien, but at minimum will be added as a reserve. For Altuve it will be his ninth All-Star team, adding on to his franchise record after not making the team last year because he missed the first month and a half of the season with a broken thumb.

Tucker and Alvarez will both become three-time All-Stars. Neither has been voted a starter before. Even with the time he’s missing on the injured list, Tucker belongs in the outfield with the Yankees’ superstar combo of Aaron Judge and Juan Soto. Alvarez’s opportunity to win the vote at designated hitter opened up when Shohei Ohtani switched leagues in signing with the Dodgers.

Last year the Texas Rangers dominated the AL lineup with five starters. It was not an omen that they would go on to win the World Series. This year Arlington hosts the game at Globe Life Field, but Semien is the only Ranger anywhere close to the lead in the fan voting.

As for the one Astro All-Star maybe, that is Ronel Blanco. The 30-year-old has come out of nowhere to be the Astros’ ace, but he is not a lock. I don’t think his foreign substance suspension hurts much other than it factors into Blanco having pitched fewer innings than almost all other candidates. It’s a matter of math. A maximum of nine starting pitchers make the squad, there may only be eight taken. It’s not hard to name nine guys who could get the nod over Blanco, especially when you factor in that every team must be represented. Tyler Anderson is the most deserving Angel. Erick Fedde or Garret Crochet is the most deserving White Sox (Sock?). The Seattle Mariners have no deserving everyday player, though some might argue Cal Raleigh if three catchers are taken. The M’s are dominating the AL West on the back of stellar starting pitching. It’s hard to see no Mariner starter getting picked, although only Logan Gilbert at 2.93 has an earned run average within 0.50 of Blanco’s 2.43. Blanco has three more starts to strengthen his case before the staff is named July 7.

*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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