One night after Justin Verlander restored hope and order to the Astros and their playoff hopes, Houston again came out and fell flat on their face.
As the Angels beat the doors off of Texas and provided a glimmer of hope for the Astros to snag yet another AL West crown, the Astros decided to trip all over themselves and ensure that didn't happen.
From inexcusable errors to managerial blunders of the highest order, the Astros did everything they possibly could to ensure they would not gain ground on the Rangers and separate themselves from Seattle.
The Astros lost 6-2 to Seattle, again severely hampering their chances of even playing playoff baseball.
Cristian Javier was fine, the bullpen aside from Rafael Montero threw well enough, the final line for the bats was again relatively quiet, though Seattle made a few fantastic defensive plays to keep the Astros from tacking on extra runs.
The Astros beat themselves last night, both the players on the field and, once again, the manager calling the shots.
In the third-inning, after a fantastic catch from Kyle Tucker, Jose Altuve tried to nab Mike Ford tagging up to third base. A perfect throw from a player with Bo Jackson's arm may not have gotten Ford. Jose Altuve is in the sixth-percentile of arm strength in the league. He was never going to get Ford, but tried anyways, and airmailed his throw into the crowd.
The error sent Ford home and advanced Ty France to third, where he later scored on a sacrifice fly. One of the runs was deemed earned, but it's likely neither cross the plate if Altuve simply eats the throw instead of beating himself.
With two outs in the fifth and runners on first and second, Dusty Baker went to Rafael Montero to replace Cristian Javier. While Montero has been better of late, with the game hanging in the balance, it would have been nice to see Dusty go to one of, if not his best, leverage arms in Hector Neris to navigate the situation.
Montero didn't record an out. A single from Cal Raleigh scored two. While Jose Rojas would have scored from second regardless, Julio Rodriguez scored from first because Kyle Tucker's throw from right field got by Alex Bregman and rolled into the Astros dugout, advancing Rodriguez home. Seattle led 4-0 at this point, and Houston gifted them three of the four runs. The inning ended with Seattle leading 5-0.
Seattle was cruising along with their 5-0 lead until the 7th. Houston loaded the bases with nobody out and the top of the order looming. Martín Maldonado was due up, so Dusty Baker rightly went to a pinch-hitter.
With Michael Brantley available, a base-hit would score two and put Houston firmly back in business.
Baker, for the most asinine of reasons, opted to send Jon Singleton to the plate. Why? Well, Singleton is left-handed, so I guess that's what you did in 1974 when a righty was on the mound.
Does it matter that Jon Singleton stepped into the box hitting .132 with a .410 OPS against righties this year? Not at all, because according to Baker, a career long minor leaguer gave them the best chance of an extra base-hit.
Newsflash Dusty, you can't hit a five-run home run. Send your best hitter to the plate and keep the line moving. Maldy would have been a better option to be fair.
Singleton lifted a fly ball into right-field, scoring a run on a sac fly. He did his job, but the decision was still entirely indefensible. There is no reason for such a choice.
A filthy slider from Matt Brash got Altuve looking and Alex Bregman grounded out to third.
Who knows how that sequence plays out if Brantley splits a gap and clears the bases with the top of the order looming. Instead, Brash could be aggressive and attack with the threat already lessened and one pitch from getting out of the inning.
After their 6-2 defeat, the Astros now again lead Seattle by only 0.5 a game for the final Wild Card spot. Tonight's game is yet another must-win. We'll see if the Astros and their manager decide to act like it.