Astros starter Brad Peacock pitched around trouble all night and left Saturday’s game after six innings with a 3-1 lead. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Astros bullpen was unable to make that lead stand up. But this time it wasn’t exactly their fault.
Poor defense by the Astros turned out to be the difference in this one. When Kevin Chapman took the mound to start the seventh inning Astros fans had to be thinking “here we go again”. In a season marred by late inning meltdowns fans now cringe when the door to the Astros bullpen flies open.
But Chapman is new in town. He hasn’t had the misfortune of experiencing all of those deflating defeats firsthand. So maybe, just maybe he would be immune to the seemingly contagious affliction. Chapman proceeded to explode the bat of the first batter he faced, sawing off Jurickson Profar and inducing a harmless grounder to short. But (not really a) shortstop Jake Elmore was unable to handle the slow roller and Profar reached first base on the error.
Jake Elmore is not a shortstop (Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports)
Okay. No problem. Chapman can still do this. The rookie managed to retire the next two hitters while keeping the speedy Profar anchored at first base. But then, lightning struck. Elvis Andrus connected for his first homer of the season, tying the game at three. In a move that I thought was inappropriate, Bo Porter promptly yanked Chapman from the game.
I thought Porter’s untimely removal of Chapman sent the wrong message to the youngster who was making his second big league appearance. The message was: you failed. Where in reality it was Chapman’s defense that had failed him. I mean, why not let him try to get the last out of the inning? The bases were now empty and the damage was already done.
Instead, Porter decided to bring in Lucas Harrell. The former starter would get his own chance to protect a lead in the eighth inning after Houston rallied for a run in the seventh against Jason Frasor. Unfortunately for Harrell, the Astros defensive blunders were far from over.
A.J. Pierzynski‘s one-out double set the stage for the Rangers’ second comeback of the ballgame. The newest member of team Arlington, Alex Rios, followed with a liner to centerfield. Instead of playing the ball on a hop and holing Rios to a single, Brandon Barnes decided to make an ill-fated diving attempt at a catch that he had no chance to make. As a result, Pierzynski was able to score (he may have been held at third if Barnes doesn’t dive) and Rios ended up at third as the balled rolled slowly toward Tal’s Hill.
Now tied at four, and with only one out, the Astros brought the infield in to try and cut down the go-ahead run at the plate. Harrell, a groundball specialist when he is on his game, got Mitch Moreland to hit a roller right at Jose Altuve. The second-baseman threw home in plenty of time to nail Rios but Jason Castro had the ball jarred loose as he applied the tag. Rangers 5, Astros 4.
That score would hold up as the Astros were unable to answer against Joakim Soria in the eighth and Joe Nathan in the ninth. Harrell would be saddled with his 13th loss of the year thanks to some untimely miscues by a couple of guys that have been stellar on defense all year long.
Even though both Astros relievers recorded blown saves tonight it wasn’t exactly another bullpen meltdown. The Astros found a new way to lose this one.