What could have ended up being a baserunning blunder for Jose Altuve and the Astros instead ended in victory for Houston.
Jonathan Villar (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
If it were not for Matt Dominguez‘s two run ninth inning home run to tie the game, this game likely would have ended the same way the last four games have for the Astros. Not only did Dominguez get Jose Cisnero off the hook for giving up a two run Brandon Moss home run in the eighth that put the A’s up 4-2, but he also took the onus off himself for an earlier blunder.
The third baseman’s error allowed Oakland to put a first inning run on the board. But the A’s lead did not last long as Jonathan Villar showed why he deserved to be promoted and placed in the leadoff spot.
On his way to a big night, Villar led off the game with his first of two doubles. After getting to third on an Altuve single, the shortstop scored on Jason Castro‘s single.
Houston’s new leadoff hitter added a single later in the game, but his biggest play came in the ninth inning. After Dominguez’s game tying home run, Villar doubled with one out after Marc Krauss flew out. Altuve then walked setting the stage for Villar’s legs to work their magic.
Grant Balfour‘s pitch bounced in front of Derek Norris, and that was all Villar needed to wreak havoc. He danced off of second base drawing the attention of Norris. Altuve though ventured a little too far off first base and were it not for Norris throwing the ball into right field he would have been thrown out. Instead Villar was able to race home and beat Josh Reddick‘s throw to send the Astros home victorious.
Tonight’s 5-4 victory for the Astros over the A’s included two firsts for the 2013 season. In their 12th game against their new division rivals, the Astros finally got a win. It was also the first blown save of the season for Balfour as Houston earned their third walkoff win of the season by scoring three times in the ninth inning.
Jarred Cosart followed up his dazzling debut with another sterling effort. Cosart pitched seven innings tonight giving up only two runs, one of which was earned. He forced the A’s to hit into three double plays to limit the damage from the seven hits and three walks he allowed. What is even more remarkable, is that Cosart maintained his mid 90’s velocity all night and showed a clear comfort on the mound along with a presence commensurate with his status as a top prospect and future ace.
Cosart did get into some trouble in the third inning, but one of those double plays helped him limit the damage even though it scored a run. Altuve’s fifth inning sacrifice fly which scored Brandon Barnes tied the score which is the way it stayed until the eighth inning.
Of the right hander’s four strikeouts, none were bigger than the one that came on his 115th pitch when he retired Coco Crisp before giving way to the bullpen. In fact, the entire seventh inning showed me a great deal about Cosart. And they are all good things.
Chris Young walked on four pitches to lead off the seventh inning, and things could have quickly gone downhill for Cosart. That was especially the case with Home Run Derby winner Yoenis Cespedes coming up to pinch hit. However, that was no problem for Cosart as he forced Cespedes to hit into a double play.
Tonight the young players lived up the hype. Cosart did exactly what was asked of him and Villar gave Astros fans something to be excited about. One of the largest crowds of the season was at Minute Maid Park for Cosart’s home debut as the announced attendance was 32,249. And Cosart, Villar, and company made sure those fans went home happy.