Astros Suffer Sweep Despite 19 Ks
Mariners Pull Within 4 As Series Awaits

McCullers exits with a loss
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
Somebody had a good idea by striking out as many Rangers as possible for Sunday's finale of the Lone Star Series. Unfortunately, hiding Yuli Gurriel at second base didn't work like expected. Houston set a franchise record with 19 strikeouts thrown in a nine inning game. Unfortunately, Gurriel's error in the sixth keyed a three-run Ranger rally that was critical in a 4-3 sweeper at Minute Maid before 40,560 fans, putting the three-game series at over 120,000 in attendance.

Tyler White, who had just arrived from AAA Fresno, got the start at first base. He greeted Mike Minor with a solo homer off the Crawford Fowl Pole for a 1-0 lead.

Former Astro farmhand Delino Deshields, Jr. smacked a ground rule double against Lance McCullers in the fifth to tie the game. Ronald Guzman scored but Robinson Chirinos was forced to return to third base when the live ball was stuck under the outfield padding.

In the sixth, Jurickson Profar untied it with a double that deflected off McCullers into left field. After a wild pitch moved Profar to third, Isiah Kiner-Falefa sent a bouncer straight at Gurriel playing second for the injured Jose Altuve. The ball went right under Gurriel's glove for an error to put the Rangers up, 3-1. An RBI double by Ronald Guzman forced a pitching change.

McCullers lasted 5-1/3rd innings but struck out 11 and walked nobody. He gave up six hits and four runs, three earned. Joe Smith fanned the two batters he faced to get out of the sixth. Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock whiffed six of the ten batters they faced to total 19 strikeouts by Houston pitching.

The makeshift defensive lineup listed White at first, Gurriel at second, Alex Bregman at short and J.D. Davis at third. Marwin Gonzalez was given a rest other than a late pinch-hitting appearance.

White had three of Houston's seven hits and Tony Kemp added two knocks, scoring a run in the sixth and knocking in a run in the ninth. White and Gonzalez walked against Rangers closer Keone Kela in the final frame then Kemp singled to right to narrow the gap to 4-3 before George Springer fouled out to Chirinos to end the game.

It was the first time this season the Astros had been swept, their fourth loss in a row and five of their last six. Seattle won to move within four games of the Astros in the AL West and just three games behind in the loss column.

The Astros now open a three-game series in Seattle for a head-to-head battle. The Mariners are also 4-6 in their last 10 games. Gerrit Cole (10-2) will pitch the Monday 9:10 pm Central opener for the struggling Astros against tough lefty James Paxton (8-4) at Safeco Field.

- Bob Hulsey