The Houston Astros were defeated by the Texas Rangers 5-4 inside Minute Maid Park on Monday afternoon in game two of the American League Championship Series. The loss means the Astros must now win four of the final five against Texas to reach the World Series.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
The Astros handed the ball to left-hander Framber Valdez, and it could not have been a more disastrous start for the southpaw. He gave up back-to-back singles, then committed an error himself, gave up two more singles to Adolis Garcia and Mitch Garver, and found himself in a 3-0 hole before many had settled into their seats at Minute Maid Park. After one out was recorded, another RBI single, this one from Nathaniel Lowe, made it 4-0 Rangers and that would be the score after a half inning.
The Rangers turned to the veteran Nathan Eovaldi, who took the mound with a four-run lead in the bottom of the first. The Astros made solid contact with a couple of pitches, but went down in order in the inning.
After Framber put up a zero in the second, the Astros offense got on the board. Yordan Alvarez launched a solo home run into the upper deck to make it 4-1.
Jonah Heim answered that solo home run with one of his own to lead off the top half of the third. That made it 5-1 as Valdez continued to struggle settling in. After a two-out walk, Dusty Baker had seen enough, and Framber’s day was done. Rafael Montero came in to finish the third and also worked a clean fourth.
In the bottom half of that fourth, the Astros got a little closer. Alex Bregman launched a leadoff solo home run to once again cut the lead to three at 5-2.
The bottom of the fifth presented the Astros their best chance yet offensively. Two singles and an error loaded the bases with no one out. Dusty turned to Yainer Díaz to pinch hit for Martin Maldonado. Diaz struck out, followed by Jose Altuve who whiffed as well. Bregman chopped out to third, and Eovaldi danced out of danger with no runs allowed.
After JP France made his postseason debut and got through the sixth, the Astros offense drew one closer yet again. Michael Brantley drove home Alvarez on an RBI double to make it 5-3.
The Houston bullpen continued to hold, and Alvarez was not done his heroics in this game. He hit his second solo home run in the bottom of the eighth, this one off of Aroldis Chapman to draw the Astros within one at 5-4.
Ryan Pressly stranded a runner on third in the top of the ninth which set the scene for the Astros’ offense, down by a run with three outs to play with against Jose Leclerc. Jeremy Pena led off and made good contact but flew out to the warning track in right field. Diaz grounded hard to third but had a hit taken away by Josh Jung. And lastly, Altuve flew out to left center to end things.
BIG NUMBER: 4
The Astros gave up four first inning runs and that proved killer in this one. They were able to chip away at the lead but never drew even or pulled ahead.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Nathan Eovaldi
Eovaldi was not afraid to give up the solo home run, and that is exactly what you are able to do when your team gives you a four-run lead in the first inning. He ended up going six innings, giving up three runs and striking out nine.
UP NEXT: Game three between the Astros and Rangers will be Wednesday night at 7:03 in Arlington at Globe Life Field. You can hear all the action of that game on ESPN 103.7 Lafayette 104.1 Lake Charles.