A doubleheader is on tap tomorrow

Astros rally to force extras but Angels take opener

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

After ending their homestand with a series win against the Rangers, the Astros set out on the road, starting with a four-game set against the Angels over three days. Here is a rundown of the series opener from Friday night:

Final Score (11 innings): Angels 6, Astros 5.

Record: 21-16, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Matt Andriese (2-2, 5.64 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Brooks Raley (0-1, 6.23 ERA).

McCullers Jr. exits without recording an out

After starting the game off with back-to-back singles, things quickly spiraled downhill and out of control for the Astros. After stranding both runners in the top half, Lance McCullers went to the mound in the bottom of the first.

He would leave before recording an out, giving up a two-run home run to Mike Trout, then walking the bases loaded. He called the trainer out at one point in the inning, but it is unclear if his struggles were injury-related or not.

Astros chip away at the lead

That set up an opportunity for Luis Garcia's major-league debut. He was able to turn the loaded bases into just one run, allowing a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0 Angels before getting two strikeouts to end the threat. Garcia would continue eating up innings, allowing a solo home run in the bottom of the third to extend the Angels' lead to 4-0, but still pitched into the fifth inning in an impressive, albeit impromptu, debut.

The Astros were able to cut the lead in half in the top of the fourth, putting two on base before an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker and RBI-double by Carlos Correa to make it 4-2. Cionel Perez finished the fifth for Garcia but then allowed a run in the sixth to make it a three-run game at 5-2.

Houston forces extras but can't bring in another run

After Perez, Andre Scrubb would be the third arm out of the bullpen, and he was able to finish the sixth then throw the seventh and eighth. The Astros put together a rally in the ninth, getting runners on second and third with no outs. They would both score, one on a wild pitch then another on an RBI-groundout by Josh Reddick.

Michael Brantley reached on a two-out single and was pinch-run for by Myles Straw. Straw stole second, getting himself in position for a tying RBI-double by Kyle Tucker, making it 5-5. Tucker would be left on second base, sending the game to the bottom of the ninth with Ryan Pressly on the mound to force extras. Pressly would do so, working around a walk to send things along to the tenth.

In the top of the tenth, the Astros were unable to advance Carlos Correa, the free runner on second base. Brooks Raley entered to try and force another inning, and despite the Angles moving their runner over with a leadoff bunt, would get the final two outs without giving up the run, extending the game another inning.

Garrett Stubbs pinch-ran for Martin Maldonado as the runner on second in the top of the eleventh, but he too would stay put as Houston again went down in order. The Angels would finally end the game in the bottom of the eleventh, getting a walk-off RBI-single by Shohei Ohtani to win 6-5.

Up Next: Two of the four-game series will occur on Saturday, with a doubleheader starting at 6:07 PM Central. The first game will feature Brandon Bielak (3-2, 5.40 ERA) on the mound for the Astros and Griffin Canning (0-3, 4.04 ERA) for the Angels. The second game will start 30-45 minutes later with Jose Urquidy making his first start of 2020 while Los Angeles' starter is TBD.

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Correa could be on his way out. Composite image by Jack Brame.

It has not been the best of times to be a star athlete in Houston. In the last year, Jadeveon Clowney and DeAndre Hopkins were solid off for a warm bucket of spit. George Springer won't be back. James Harden and Russell Westbrook rumors are rampant. J.J. Watt might be moving on as well.

Now, reports are the Astros are listening to offers for Carlos Correa.

Predictably, Astros fans are livid. And if it's true, they should be concerned about the bigger picture.

Trading Correa makes sense - if you have no plans on keeping him after next season, as was clearly the case with Springer. If the Astros can get a haul and replenish the farm system, it would be the right move, especially considering Correa's injury history.

But in the long run, it does not bode well for the direction of the team. All recent indications are that the Astros are going cheap.

They would still be a competitive team without Correa, but it would be yet another indication their World Series window has closed. Alex Bregman could slide over to shortstop, but who would play third? And they only have one starting outfielder on the roster as it is. Putting together a competitive lineup around Bregman, Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, Yuli Gurriel and Yordan Alvarez would still be possible, but if the Astros aren't going to spend money, that could be problematic.

The writing was probably on the wall when the team hired James Click as GM from the notoriously frugal Tampa Bay organization. The good news is the Rays have been successful. But this is a new direction for a team that was not afraid to spend big money to make runs at the World Series.

If they lose Correa, they lose a team leader, one of the few players who embraced the villain role in the wake of the cheating controversy and was not afraid to speak out. But he has never lived up to his MVP potential, has battled injuries and will command big dollars on the open market. He is still young enough to become that kind of player, and someone will gamble big money that he will.

Sadly, if this rumor is true, it won't be the Astros.

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