Apr 16, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Framber Valdez (59) walks off the mound after a pitching change in the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Astros suffer from seventh-inning meltdown, fall to Texas Rangers 9-1
The Houston Astros lost its first series of the season against an AL West opponent. Powered by a seventh-inning grand slam, the Rangers defeated the Astros, 9-1, on Sunday night.
Texas (9-6) won the three-game series, 2-1. For Houston (7-9), the loss went to starting pitcher Framber Valdez, who pitched an excellent first six innings but ran into trouble in the seventh that the Astros could not overcome.
Seventh inning disaster
The Rangers got to Valdez. Nathaniel Lowe got the Texas run started with a leadoff double. Adolis García followed Lowe’s double with a hit toward Jeremy Peña that should have been an out at first base, but the Houston shortstop was charged with an error for throwing the ball in the dirt to José Abreu.
With runners at first and second, Josh Jung hit a single to load the bases with no outs. Jonah Heim walked to score the Rangers’ first run of the contest. Robbie Grossman knocked Valdez out of the game with a single into the outfield that scored García, making it 2-0 in favor of Texas.
Valdez ended the game allowing five runs although only one was an earned run. He is credited for pitching through six innings on 95 pitches. Entering the seventh inning, Valdez had accumulated seven strikeouts on 71 pitches.
Hector Neris came in relief for Valdez. The bases were loaded with no outs and a 2-0 deficit. He got Leody Taveras to fly out and Travis Jankowski to strike out. However, Marcus Semien busted the game wide open with a grand slam to left field, making it 6-0 in favor of the Rangers.
Astros offense fails to launch
Houston had a good chance at getting the first run of the game in the fifth inning. Jake Meyers drew a walk to open the inning. After catcher Martín Maldonaldo struck out, second baseman Mauricio Dubón singled on a line drive to right that allowed Meyers to move to third base.
Dubón was aggressive on his hit and tried to turn it into a double, but he was thrown out at second base giving the Astros two outs. He was unable to stay on the plate as he slid into second base, and he was tagged out by Ezequiel Duran. The Rangers had to challenge the call to get the out called. Alex Bregman flied out in the next at-bat.
After the Rangers’ game-changing grand slam in the top of the seventh, Houston’s lineup made some noise in the bottom of the inning. Peña opened with a double. He was followed by David Hensley, who drew a walk to first. Meyers drew another walk to load the bases with no outs, which ended the night for reliever Brock Burke.
Maldonaldo and Dubón struck out in back-to-back at-bats. Bregman came up and drew a walk, which got the Astros on the scoreboard and made it 6-1. Yordan Álvarez was next to bat, which again forced Texas to make a pitching change. The Rangers moved away from Jonathan Hernandez and went to Will Smith.
Álvarez grounded out on a slow hit toward third base. Jung, who was playing far off the plate closer to the shortstop spot, tracked down Álvarez’s hit and was able to step on the bag at third base before Meyers for the final out of the inning.
The Rangers got three more runs in the eighth inning.
News and Notes
• Peña became the first Astros player since Chris Burke on June 29, 2005, to record three steals in the first four innings of a game on Sunday against the Rangers, according to the ESPN broadcast. Peña stole second base in the second inning and he later stole second and third in the fourth inning.
• The Texas Rangers’ series win against the Astros was the first one in Houston since 2018.
• Dubón has an 11-game hitting streak for the Astros.
Injury updates: Astros manager Dusty Baker said Michael Brantley is taking live batting practice in Florida as he continues his rehab assignment. Baker did not give an update on outfielder Chas McCormick, who has been dealing with vision issues since Friday’s game.
Lance McCullers threw a long toss on Sunday as he continues to work his way from the elbow strain injury he suffered during spring training.
The Astros start a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays (10-6) at Minute Maid Park. The first pitch on Monday is set for 7:10 p.m. CT. Cristian Javier is expected to be on the mound for Houston against Toronto’s Kevin Gausman.