Houston loses to Cleveland

Astros give up finale to Indians as Houston's bullpen falters

Lance McCullers Jr. had a rough end to his night in Wednesday's game against the Indians. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With wins in the first two games of this series, and having swept all four in Cleveland earlier in the year, the Astros entered Wednesday trying to finish off the season-series sweep over the Indians. They would come up short, however, as Houston's bullpen would not hold up, allowing Cleveland to salvage a game.

Final Score: Indians 5, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 58-39, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Shaw (3-3)

Losing Pitcher: Austin Pruitt (0-1)

McCullers Jr. battles, but ends up on the hook

Lance McCullers Jr. had an up-and-down night, posting two solid innings to start the game before giving up a game-tying RBI-double in the third where he allowed two hits, a walk, and used 34 pitches. He rebounded with a 1-2-3 fourth, erased runners on second and third with one out in the top of the fifth, but in the sixth would not record an out after loading the bases on two singles and a walk, ending his night. Bryan Abreu came in from the bullpen and, after striking out the first two batters, allowed a bases-clearing double to charge three runs to McCullers Jr. That finalized his line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 0 HR, 100 P.

Houston ties it back up

To that point, the Astros had brought in two runs, both on solo homers. The first was a game-tying solo shot by Jose Altuve, his third over the last two games, in the bottom of the fourth. Kyle Tucker then gave Houston a lead in the bottom of the fifth, blasting a solo shot to go ahead 2-1.

Then, down 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Martin Maldonado led off with a double, then scored on an RBI double by Jose Altuve, cutting the lead to one run and leaving Altuve on second as the tying run. After a sacrifice groundout by Michael Brantley to move Altuve to third, Yuli Gurriel would get him home, tying the game with an RBI single to make it 4-4 heading to the seventh.

Astros drop the finale

Austin Pruitt was Houston's next reliever, coming in to take over in the top of the seventh. He allowed a one-out go-ahead solo homer to Cleveland, then faced and retired one more batter to hit the minimum of three before Dusty Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who finished the frame on one pitch.

After the Astros stranded the tying runner in the bottom of the seventh, Ryne Stanek was next out of the bullpen in the top of the eighth and kept it a one-run game, erasing a one-out walk. Still 5-4 in the top of the ninth, Ryan Pressly came on and continued his recent success by posting a scoreless inning. It would be to no avail, though, as the Astros would come up empty in the home half, allowing Cleveland to salvage a game in both this series and the season series.

Up Next: The Astros will have Thursday off before continuing this homestand by welcoming the Rangers into town for a three-game set starting Friday at 7:10 PM Central. In the opener, Kolby Allard (2-7, 4.06 ERA) for Texas is expected to face Jake Odorizzi (3-5, 4.09 ERA) for Houston.

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The Astros play Game 1 of the ALDS Tuesday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

With a nod to Charles Dickens, October is the best of times (Astros) and the worst of times (Texans and Rockets) for Houston sports fans. At least this October.

October is the one month when all three of Houston’s major sports teams are guaranteed to be in full swing at the same time. It’s possible, if the Astros make the World Series that November will have all three teams in action, too. But let’s not jinx things.

The Astros start their playoff run Tuesday on TBS. Since the Yankees also play that day, also on TBS, we can assume the Astros will get the daytime slot, the Yankees in prime time. Now before Astros fans start screaming east coast bias, it really only applies to TV. Fun fact: no New York Met has ever won an MVP Award, and only one Yankee has won it in the past 37 years – Alex Rodriguez in 2005 and 2007. How’d that work out for him? Most important, a New York team has won the World Series only once in the past two decades – the Yankees in 2009.

The Astros could play as many as 15 more games in October, five in the Division Series, seven in the League Championship Series and three in the World Series before the calendar flips to November.

Meanwhile, the Texans plod on with three more games in October, and the Rockets have 11.

The winless Texans are at home against the Titans at NRG Stadium, on the road against the Jaguars and Raiders.

The Rockets, coming off the worst record in the NBA last season, have three games at home at Toyota Center and eight on the road.

This presents a problem of abundance, an embarrassment of riches, for Houston sports junkies. Who are you going to watch on TV? Which team will you pay to watch in person? Who are you rooting for the most? Whose jersey will you buy?

David Puddy is right, you “gotta support the team,” but who will own Houston this month?

What to do? If it’s true that nothing succeeds like success, and everybody loves a winner – it’s an obvious choice.

The Astros.

The Astros just completed their regular season with 106 wins, second most in franchise history, another American League West title, the best record in the American League and will have home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Even though fans had high hopes for the Astros entering 2022, the team smashed everybody’s expectations. Vegas put the Astros over/under wins at 92 games. The Astros seemingly flew by that number during spring training.

They are the first team in American League history to win 100 games in four of their last five full seasons. Not even Babe Ruth’s Yankees of the 1920s and 1930s did that. This core of Astros has won five of the last six American League West titles. They’ve played in three of the last five World Series. This is a dynasty right before our eyes. We’re witness to greatness. How ‘bout them Astros?

What a season it was. Who could have figured that 39-year-old Justin Verlander, out of action for two seasons after Tommy John surgery, would have a career year, a ridiculously skinny earned run average and the overwhelming pick for the Cy Young Award? Jose Altuve would return to a .300 batting average, Cristian Javier would lead the team in strikeouts, Yordan Alvarez would finish No. 2 between Aaron Judge and Mike Trout in OPS, and rookie Jeremy Pena would slug 22 home runs, the same number as Carlos Correa? Remember last offseason and cries of “pay the man!” Some of a team’s best deals are the ones they don’t make.

Strap yourself in for an October to remember. The storylines are endless. There’s bad blood between the Astros and the Yankees, between the Astros and Dodgers, between the Astros and boo birds in every stadium not named Minute Maid Park.

It’s going to be fun.

As for the Texans, Deshaun Watson returns to action Nov. 4 against the Texans here at NRG Stadium. And we’ll catch up with the Rockets when the NBA season starts for real on Christmas Day. But until then … play ball!

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