That was an exciting ninth inning. It made all of the nights of sticking with Astros games to the end worth it. Tonight they made it mean something. Even though I was so sure that it would end being a 6-3 loss.
Brandon Barnes (Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports)
Trevor Crowe singled to start off the inning but was quickly erased on a Chris Carter double play. Brett Wallace was then hit by a Glen Perkins pitch to give the Astros new life. L.J. Hoes singled to keep the game going, and then Brandon Barnes brought Minute Maid Park to life with a three run home run to tie the game.
Minnesota then got to Kevin Chapman for three runs in the top of the 12th inning to hand the Astros a 9-6 loss. The Twins pieced together three hits off the lefty who also allowed two walks. The first run scored on a wild pitch, but then a Darin Mastroianni two run double plated the last two runs.
The Astros did manage two baserunners in the bottom of the inning, but new Astro Matt Pagnozzi grounded out to shortstop to end the game. He was pressed into duty pinch hitting for Robbie Grossman as it appeared the outfielder tweaked something in his back on a swing.
I am surprised that it took this long. At this point, the losses don’t really matter anymore. But what does matter, is effort and focus. And lately, Jonathan Villar has seemingly been lacking both.
Going into tonight, Villar was hitting .269 which actually is not that bad. The problem though, is that he only has one stolen base in that stretch. On the season, the shortstop has twelve stolen bases in total, but also has been caught six times. His value lies in his defense and base stealing, and if he is not consistently swiping bags, Villar suddenly is not as valuable.
But what is even worse to me than the lack of results, is the seemingly lack of focus and discipline. Tonight, Villar singled to lead off the bottom of the third inning, but then had another lapse of judgement and was thrown out at second base. I have to give Bo Porter credit, and he promptly removed Villar from the game and replaced him with Marwin Gonzalez.
That seemed to work for a few innings until the Astros made a little noise with their bats in the seventh inning as they tried to get back in the game.
Trevor Crowe led off with a single, which was followed up with a one out walk to Brett Wallace. Brandon Barnes then came to the plate with two outs and drove both runners in with a single to bring the Astros within one. Gonzalez then walked, and Houston had two runners on base with two outs while trailing 4-3.
A wild pitch then put runners on the corners. Gonzalez had a brain lapse and got caught off first base and found himself in a run down. Barnes tried to make something out of nothing and got thrown out at home to end the inning.
Houston was only trailing because Jarred Cosart had his worst start so far in the major leagues. A Brian Dozier two run home run in the first inning quickly put the Astros behind and a Trevor Plouffe two run shot gave the Twins a 4-1 lead. In between Chris Carter hit yet another moonshot for his 27th long ball of the season. At the pace Carter is on, he will be at 30 home runs before the week is out.
Cosart lasted only four innings, and gave up those four runs along with five hits and three walks while striking out five batters. In what was somewhat surprising to me, Lucas Harrell was used again in back to back games and actually provided some relief. Harrell pitched three scoreless innings allowing only four hits and two walks while keeping the Astros in the game.
Jorge De Leon gave up two runs in the eighth inning to push the score to 6-3 Minnesota. All that did was set up the dramatic bottom of the ninth.
Josh Zeid gave Porter just what he needed as he logged three scoreless innings giving up only two hits while striking out three. The problem though, is that the Astros’ bats could not get anything going in the tenth or eleventh innings to make use of Zeid’s successful outing.