Astros Tie For First In 4-3 Win
Strangers Strand 17 In Bizarre Contest

Rangers: Not going anywhere?
(c) Texas News Service
Rangers relief pitcher Alex Claudio got the win but not the one he was after. He defeated Astros base coach Alex Cintron in a cow-milking contest before Saturday night's 4-3 Houston victory at Global Warming Park where the Astros were passing out gifts like Santa Claus on Christmas morning.

The statheads who preach that baserunners are what win games will have a difficult time explaining this one. The Rangers received ten walks, five hit batsmen and an error in the 96-degree weather to go with their five hits yet left an amazing 17 bodies stranded, most since the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815. (Actual MLB record was 20 in a 1956 game by the Yankees).

What in the name of Craig Biggio was going on down there?

The much-maligned Houston bullpen covered 5-1/3rd innings after Charlie Morton's unbreakable breaking pitches were given the night off after just 3-2/3rd. Morton gave up only one hit but walked six and plunked four (tying an AL record).

Brad Peacock, Tony Sipp, Chris Devenski and Hector Rondon parceled out an acceptable one run on four hits with four walks. Sipp earned his first win of the season by striking out the side in the inning he worked. Rondon notched his second save in a week.

The Astros opened the scoring in the first against Mike "Two Minute" Minor. George Springer drew a five-pitch walk then Alex Bregman cracked a double that hopped just in front of the fence in the left field corner. Bregman would score on a base hit from Yuli Gurriel.

The Rangers tied it without a hit in the second when Rougned Odor was hit, Robinson Chirinos walked and Ronald Guzman took a 3-2 pitch to fill the bases. Jose Altuve kicked a one-out chopper from Delino DeShields and Nomar Mazara added a sacrifice fly. Joey Gallo flied out but not before Jurickson Profar was hit on the first of three occasions.

Houston broke the tie in the fifth when Max Stassi, who is one of the few on this team who eats lefties for lunch, bashed a solo homer into the left field seats. That's homer number six for the part-time catcher.

That lead didn't last long as Odor doubled against Peacock and scored on a base hit by Guzman. Shin-Soo Choo walked before Peacock bore down to get the final two outs of the frame.

Fortunately, the Astros pushed across one more run. Stassi walked with out in the seventh against Jose LeClerc. Tony Kemp singled and, with two away, Springer blooped a single in front of Gallo in left to drive Stassi home with the game-winner.

After the 3-1/2 hour ordeal witnessed by 38,000 scorched fans ended, the cows were unavailable for comment.

Houston pulled themselves back into a virtual tie for the division lead as Seattle lost in St. Pete. The 41-25 Astros trail the 40-24 Mariners by four percentage points. The Champs are on course for a 101-win season although they often haven't looked like it.

Looking to sweep the series and win their fifth in a row, Dallas Keuchel (3-8) returns to see if he can snap his own personal hex in the 2:05 pm Central finale. Fellow lefthander Matt Moore (1-5) gets the call for the 27-40 Rangers. Moore is 3-2. with a 3.26 ERA in his career against the Astros.

Also, it's been reported that the Astros have come to terms with top draft choice, outfielder Seth "Blue Ribbon" Beer. The Clemson flychaser is expected to appear for a signing Tuesday in Houston unless those tricky elbow doctors find something wrong at the physical.

- Bob Hulsey