No sport embodies the "It's a marathon, not a sprint" cliche more than baseball, so I will try not to make too much of what amounts to, in the standings, just one win, but the Houston Astros' glorious, bizarre 6-5 walk off win against the Oakland A's on Tuesday night is truly one of those that we might look back at in October, should the Astros secure home field advantage in a playoff series, and say "Man, thank God for Jonathan Lucroy!"
Lucroy, the A's catcher, probably had a tough time sleeping last night after his misplay of an Alex Bregman nub job around home plate and subsequent throwing error (off Bregman's head!) led to Kyle Tucker's scoring the winning run in a strange 11th inning comeback that never should have even been necessary.
The Astros were cruising along just fine for eight innings, with three of their five All-Stars providing most of the juice — six scoreless innings from ace Justin Verlander, a couple of RBI's from George Springer, and a couple of home runs from their best player over the last month, third baseman Alex Bregman. Sprinkle in a couple of clean innings of relief from Chris Devenski and Joe Smith, and it seemed like it was going to be a night we could all go to bed relatively early.
And then, well, Giles happened. For some odd reason, with Collin McHugh and Hector Rondon available, Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to bring in Ken Giles and his technicolor gas can. What ensued then was fairly predictable — hit, hit, hit, no outs, see ya Giles, and if you watch this short video clip, Giles seemed to have a problem with his boss firing him for the night, despite Giles being as statistically incompetent as someone in his role could possibly be:
Ken Giles just said "F you man" to AJ Hinch when pulled after giving up two hits and not recording an out in the 9th. Please get rid of him. pic.twitter.com/jvoVh5bI6Y— Sam (@BootsMcGeev) July 11, 2018
At this point, when you combine this act with Giles punching himself in the face a few weeks ago after being removed from a game, Giles barely seems like a real person anymore. He's more like a caricature of some movie character that was the result of fantasy sex between Ricky Vaughn and Kenny Powers. Don't ever change, Ken. (Also, please don't ever pitch again.)
So Giles' ineptitude, followed by Rondon's inability to completely quell Giles' mess, led to a 4-4 tie and extra innings. In the top of the 11th, McHugh made an uncharacteristic mistake pitching to Oakland's Stephen Piscotty, whose home run gave the A's a 5-4 lead.
Then, in the bottom of the eleventh, it got weird. Josh Reddick drew a walk, followed by a single from the prodigal son, Kyle Tucker. With Reddick on third, Tony Kemp hit a ground ball to shortstop, which brought Reddick home on a bang-bang play at the plate in which Lucroy mishandled the throw home, the first of what would be a sequence of botches from the A's catcher.
So with the score tied 5-5, here's how the final play of the game went down:
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If you recall, back in April, Bregman was also the hitter for what had been, up to that point, the strangest walk off win I'd ever seen, a benign infield pop up that Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer misplayed into the game winning run. I'd have bet all the money in the world that we wouldn't see another walk off ending so strange, maybe ever, let alone in the same season with the same hitter at the plate.
This is the magic that comes from the grit of this Astros' team, and from their third baseman, who has rapidly ascended into the Altuve-Correa-Springer ring of importance and future necessity for this baseball team. Indeed, if the Astros are playing a Game 7 at home in October, we might look back at this one last night and remember that the baseball gods smiled on Houston for a night.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.