Mandatory Credit: Photo by Michael Wyke/AP/Shutterstock (13428395b) Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander throws to an Arizona Diamondbacks batter during the first inning of a baseball game, in Houston Diamondbacks Astros Baseball, Houston, United States – 28 Sep 2022
With playoff races across MLB coming down to the wire, the Astros entered the finale of the short two-game series against the Diamondbacks looking for a win to clinch the number one seed in the AL playoffs.
Despite trailing early and tying the game in the middle innings, Arizona would ultimately push ahead in the tenth and win 5-2 to split the series and leave Houston waiting until Friday for another shot at reducing their magic number to zero.
Arizona tags Verlander in the first, but JV turns it around
The game did not start as Justin Verlander or the Astros would have hoped. Arizona ambushed him with three straight hits and a sac fly to kick off the top of the first to take a 2-0 lead before Houston could get to the plate.
Verlander rebounded nicely in the following innings, getting his pitch count back to normal as he held Arizona to their two runs through the next six innings, including stranding a runner on third with a strikeout to end his night in the seventh. His final line to further help his Cy Young case: 7.0 IP, 2R (1 earned), 1 BB, 7 K, 101 P.
McCormick breaks through against Gallen to tie things up
Meanwhile, the Astros weren’t having much success against Zac Gallen in the early goings. Houston put runners on base in both the second and third, but Gallen would get double plays both times as he would go on to face the minimum through four innings.
They finally broke through in the bottom of the fifth, getting a two-out rally together with a Trey Mancini double setting up a game-tying two-run homer by Chas McCormick, his fourteenth of the season, knotting things up 2-2.
D-Backs pull away in the tenth
Rafael Montero took over for Verlander, looking to maintain the tie in the top of the eighth, and with help from home plate umpire Alan Porter who gave him some generous strike calls, he sat down Arizona 1-2-3. Still knotted up at 2, Ryan Pressly pitched the top of the ninth, keeping things where they were to give his offense a chance at a walk-off.
Kyle Tucker did his part in the bottom of the ninth, leading it off with a single before stealing second. Houston went on to load the bases with back-to-back two-out walks, prompting Dusty Baker to bring in Jose Altuve, who was having a day off, to pinch-hit. Altuve would line out to send things to extras.
Will Smith took over on the mound for Houston in the top of the tenth but allowed the free runner to score and recorded just two outs before Baker would move on to Bryan Abreu, who would watch two more runs score on a two-RBI single to make it a 5-2 Arizona lead. Houston could not mount a comeback in the bottom of the tenth, splitting the series.
News and notes
Back to work on Friday: The Astros will have a day off on Thursday before continuing this homestand on Friday. They’ll open up a three-game series with the Rays at 7:10 PM, with Houston’s starter not yet named.
Update on Alvarez: After rolling his ankle in Tuesday’s game, Yordan Alvarez’s X-rays returned negative. He was not in the lineup Wednesday, but Dusty Baker expects he’ll be back in a couple of days, possibly on Friday.
Elsewhere in the AL: While the Astros entered the night with a magic number of 1 to beat out the Yankees for the top seed, New York’s Aaron Judge matched an AL single-season record with his 61st home run, tying Roger Maris.