With their three brightest offensive stars (sorry, Alex) all on the disabled list, it appeared the Astros would get shut out Monday night in nippy San Francisco (game time temperature 62 degrees) until the top of the ninth against closer Will Smith who had not given up a home run all season. Marwin Gonzalez, who had not hit a home run right-handed until last week in Seattle, drove a 1-0 fastball into the third row of the left field stands for a dramatic two-out three-run homer that cut down the Giants, 3-1, before 40,000 stunned fans.
(c) Associated Press
Some wondered why Jeff Luhnow would risk his reputation to bring troubled reliever Roberto Osuna to Houston in a deadline trade with Toronto but the righthander calmly tossed a 1-2-3 eighth inning in his Astros debut and was rewarded with the victory while current closer Hector Rondon fanned a pair en route to his 12th save. Rondon has yet to allow a run on the road this season.
Charlie Morton and Dereck Rodriguez hooked up in quite the pitchers duel for seven innings. Each allowed just three hits and it appeared that Morton's lone mistake, a hanging inside curveball on 2-2 that Brandon Crawford smashed into the first row of seats in right that guard McCovey's Cove (the Frisco version of the Crawford Boxes), would cost him the ballgame.
A double by Tony Kemp and singles by Gonzalez and Alex Bregman were the only signs of life out of the gasping offense through eight frames until lefty Smith with his 0.79 WHIP and 1.27 ERA strode from the bullpen to close it out. Bregman drew a walk with one away. Yuli Gurriel coaxed a base on balls with two away. Then Marwin unloaded his 10th homer of the season that changed everything.
Houston gained a half-game on idle Oakland to lead the A.L. West by 4-1/2 games and will close out their season series against the Giants Tuesday afternoon in a 2:45 pm Central finale with lefties Dallas Keuchel (9-9) and Madison Bumgarner (4-4) squaring off in a duel better suited for 2015.
The Astros' DL parade continued Monday as they placed outfielder George Springer on the 10-day list with a sprained thumb which doctors report will keep him sidelined for two weeks at the minimum. Derek Fisher was called up from AAA Fresno to take his spot.
It was also reported that Lance McCullers' aching right elbow will sideline him into September. The good news is shortstop Carlos Correa, out since late June with a sore back, should return sometime during the next homestand. Jose Altuve (knee), Brian McCann (knee) and Chris Devenski (hamstring) are all on the mend as well and yet these road warriors (5-2 this trip, 40-18 this season) keep right on winning.
Finally, the A's were able to swing a post-deadline deal with the fading Detroit Tigers whom they just swept out of town, acquiring ex-Astro Mike Fiers (7-6) for two future players or cash consideration. Welcome to the pennant race, Mike.
- Bob Hulsey