Two bouncing balls that snuck past Oakland second baseman Joey Wendle plated the two tallies the Astros needed Tuesday night to slip past the Athletics, 2-1 in 10 innings, to keep their wild card push alive.
Kemp (r): Smiles as mates celebrate
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Seattle was clobbered by Toronto and fell into third place in the division while Houston inched to within two games of Baltimore for the final wild card spot. The Orioles are 82-69 while Detroit, who also won, is 80-70 and 1-1/2 games back. The Astros are 80-71 and two behind while Seattle, now 79-72, stands three in arrears and the Yankees, with a 78-72 mark, are 3-1/2 back.
Joe Musgrove took a no-hitter into the sixth inning when he gave up a single to Jake Smolinski. After a couple of walks loaded the bases, Chris Devenski took over and Smolinski scored on a ground out by Stephen Vogt. Devenski finished up without further damage and stayed in for 3-2/3rd innings to get the victory.
Tony Kemp, who is only slightly bigger than Jose Altuve, was a key man in both rallies. In the seventh, with John Axford replacing Sean Manaea who tossed six shutout innings for Oakland, Evan Gattis beat out an infield hit and was out on a fielder's choice by Marwin Gonzalez. Marwin stole second then Kemp came up to pinch-hit for Teoscar Hernandez. Kemp sent a bouncer up the middle that Axford deflected away from Wendle who was getting into position to field it near second base. Instead, the ball trickled into right-center behind Wendle as Gonzalez scored the tying run and Kemp hustled into second with a double.
The inning ended when George Springer struck out with two men in scoring position.
In the eighth, Altuve, who had lined out twice and bunted out, finally got his 200th hit of the year with a bouncer over third baseman Ryon Healy's head into left field. It was the third straight year the Mighty Mite had registered 200 or more hits in a season, the first to do that since Ichiro Suzuki in his Seattle heyday.
In the tenth, with lefty Sean Doolittle on the hill, Kemp cracked a leadoff double to right. Jake Marisnick bunted him over to third then Springer chopped a pitch past the drawn-in Wendle that scored Kemp with the game-winner.
Ken Giles filled the bases in the bottom half of the tenth while trying to earn the save but he retired Smolinski on a pop out and Wendle on a strike out, putting the cap on a Houston's fifth win in their past six games.
The finale of a 4-1 road trip will come Wednesday afternoon at Yo.ko Ono Coliseum. Collin McHugh (11-10), who is Mr. September since he came to Houston in 2014, will work the 2:35 Central matinee. Rookie Daniel Mengden (2-7) will take the hill for Oakland in the final game of their season series.
- Bob Hulsey