Astros: Altuve yips, more bad luck lead to 3-0 ALCS deficit

Another Jose Altuve error leads to the Houston Astros facing a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS.

If you watched Game Two of the ALCS and didn’t watch Game Three, you didn’t miss anything. Tuesday’s game, a 5-2 loss for the Houston Astros, was essentially a carbon copy of the previous day’s game — more bad luck at the plate and more good pitching undone by a costly Jose Altuve throwing error.

This time it was Jose Urquidy throwing the star-crossed gem. He pitched scoreless ball through five innings and grew more confident as the game progressed. He allowed a leadoff single in the sixth and then induced a perfect double play ball, but Altuve again could not make the routine throw. That was Altuve’s third throwing error in the past two games.

Dusty Baker immediately pulled Urquidy after the error, which seemed hasty given that he’d only thrown 75 pitches and was still throwing well. But Enoli Paredes, who’d retired all 13 of the batters he’d faced in the playoffs, came into put out the fire. Unfortunately he imploded, allowing two hits and hitting two batters. What had been a 1-0 lead quickly became a 5-1 deficit.

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It overshadowed a nice day at the plate for Altuve, who homered in the first inning and had two hits and a walk on the day. But his at-bat in the ninth was a tough pill to swallow, as he appeared to check his swing on a 2-2 count with two runners on base but was called out by the home plate umpire, who never bothered to ask for help from the first base umpire as he should have.

The Astros again had plenty of chances to score runs but frequently hit the ball hard with nothing to show for it. The Rays defense was superb in this game as it has been all series, and it seems like no matter how hard the Astros hit the ball or where they hit it to, there’s someone there to catch it.

That’s All, Folks!

Call me a pessimist if you want, but this series is over. Only one team in the history of the sport has come back from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series, and that’s the 2004 Red Sox. This Astros team is good, but they’re not the ’04 curse-breaking team of destiny, and they don’t have Pedro Martinez or Curt Schilling taking the mound anytime soon.

A lot of credit goes to the Rays. The Astros have looked like the better team in a number of ways, but the Rays have capitalized on every mistake and have made every play on defense. Houston has left 31 runners on base so far in this ALCS, and part of that is because the Rays have been positioned well defensively and made the play every time a Houston hitter smoked the ball.

The Astros are simply snakebitten to an insane degree, and while that never lasts forever, it’s hard to envision things turning around enough to allow this team to pull off an improbable comeback. They’re playing their tails off and doing just about everything right, save for the two big errors. Things just aren’t going their way, but it doesn’t take away from what has been a fun and talent-affirming playoff run for a team that desperately needed it.