Clutch Hitting, Altuve Disappear In Astros Loss

1986 Astros: Can any still hit?
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
The Texas Rangers of Arlington served the Astros up a pitching matchup to help them get back in the AL West race on Saturday but Houston declined the invitation. Former Astros discard Lucas Harrell took the mound for the Rangers and Houston loaded the bases in two of the first three innings. The result: one run, which was let in on a bases-loaded walk.

Somebody who apparently wasn't in on the joke was newly-acquired Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy who seriously spanked two homers which led the Rangers to a 3-2 decision, reclaiming a 6-1/2 game lead in the division.

Harrell lasted just 3-2/3rd innings despite 92 pitches as he allowed five hits and five walks before Rangers manager Jeff Banister decided he was through trying to be generous. Five Ranger relievers finished up and Houston could only score in the ninth to come up a run short.

Alex Bregman, who had three hits to lead the Astros, doubled in the first and eventually scored three walks later. A.J. Reed struck out to end the inning. In the third, the sacks were full again but Jake Marisnick grounded out to end the threat. Altogether, Houston left ten runners on base.

New father Doug Fister was also not sharp but gave the Astros his customary "quality start" of six innings and just one run allowed. He gave up nine hits and walked two.

Chris Devenski allowed the go-ahead run in the seventh then Lucroy added insurance in the eighth on an opposite-field homer to right.

The Astros were decked in rainbow-striped uniforms to honor the 1986 NL West Champion Astros. Those players were known for great pitching and comeback rallies. These ones haven't displayed comeback qualities much this year. So frustrated was Jose Altuve that he was ejected for the first time in his career after getting struck out in the seventh.

Houston had one final chance to rewrite the script against closer Sam Dyson in the ninth. Bregman singled home George Springer with two outs to pull within a run but Marwin Gonzalez, hitting for Altuve, bounced out to second to end the game.

A vital start is now going to fall on the shoulders of rookie Joe Musgrove (0-0) who had a strong relief debut against Toronto and must outpitch veteran All-Star Yu Darvish (2-3) who has returned from injury but has lost in his last four starts. The Sunday finale will be at 1:10 Central with a two-game swing in the standings hanging in the balance. Houston fans must hope Musgrove gets better run support than Fister received Saturday.

- Bob Hulsey