Astros 2, Reds 1
W: W. Lopez (6-3)
L: Marshall (4-5)
Contributed by Reuben
Wilson Valdez is 34 years old, and first played in the majors in 2004. He’s an awful hitter (career .237/.282/.316), so I’m guessing teams must really appreciate his fielding. In fact, glancing at his stats, one thing you notice is he’s been very steady – career .982 FLD% at SS (compared to a league average of .972) and a .993 % at 2B (.984 league average). Mr. Valdez, coming into this game, had only committed 3 errors in 806 big-league innings at 2B.
Well, he made a really bad one tonight, at a really bad time for the Reds. Actually, they’re going to easily make the playoffs, so they probably don’t care all that much. Mostly, it was at a really good time for the Astros, who will gladly take a W any way they can get it.
Lucas Harrell pitched a phenomenal game tonight. Groundball after groundball, and did he get discouraged when the Astros’ deplorable DP combo of SS Tyler Greene and 2B Scott Moore botched a couple DPs, or allowed a soft pop-up to drop in on the outfield grass? Nope, he just kept right on chuckin’ that sinker in there, getting more ground balls, and getting some key strikeouts when he needed them, later.
Unfortunately for him, the Astros were having a typical 2012 2nd-half Astros night at the plate, which meant the only run of support Harrell got was a line-drive opposite-field HR by Justin Maxwell in the 4th. They only managed 4 hits all game, in fact. In the 7th, Harrell, already over 100 pitches and clearly tiring, gave up a leadoff double to Scott Rolen but he gutted his way out of the jam, getting a soft IF line-out, a groundout, and, with a full count on Zach Cozart, a non-check-swing K to strand the runner at 3rd.
After that, the Astros got some very nice bullpen work from Hector Ambriz, Xavier Cedeno, and Wilton Lopez (5 combined K in 2 IP, 0 H, 1 BB). To the un-jaded eye, it might’ve actually seemed like they had a decent pitching staff.
The game featured surprise cameos from a couple of forgotten Stros, both fresh off the September 1st bus from OKC: Jordan Schafer pinch-ran in the 8th, and Matt Downs blasted a double off the LF wall in the 9th to start the rally; actually, he nearly WAS the rally as the ball came a couple feet from being a game-ending home run.
After that, a Dominguez intentional BB (probably a first for him) and a Barnes HBP set the stage for Jose Altuve’s dramatic walk-off, uh, reach-on-error, an easy grounder that somehow went right between the legs of the aforementioned Mr. Valdez without so much as ricocheting off his glove. Just right on through.
I should mention, to further the reader’s appreciation of the profound irony of the situation, that Valdez was only in the game because Brandon Phillips, the Reds’ multi-Gold-Glove-winning 2nd baseman, had been ejected in the 8th inning. Phillips got tossed by the home plate ump for getting all testy about being called out on what he thought was a checked-swing. He might’ve said a bad word or two, hard to tell. In any case, exit Phillips, enter Valdez, representing the nut that these blind Astro squirrels happened to stumble upon tonight amidst the soupy darkness of this horrible, horrible season. Thank God.