HOUSTON – Astros manager Dusty Baker saw Albert Pujols’ name come closer in his scorecard, a wrinkle that added an agonizing twist to an already filled with drama game. So it had to be Pujols – the Astros’ longtime nemesis – who came to bat with two strikeouts in the ninth inning representing the tie race on Wednesday night.
With Astros closer to Ryan Pressly with a stiff neck, dealing a devastating blow to the already-beaten Houston box, Baker turned to Bryan Abreu in the ninth with a three-point lead. Two or three walks rattled the nerves and set the stage for Abreu to face Prince Albert. Abreu was up to the challenge and retired Pujols to score his first career save in a scintillating 5-2 win over the Dodgers at Minute Maid Park.
“I had recurring nightmares from the past when Albert beat us a lot of times,” Baker said. ” [Abreu] we made quality shots when we needed them, and we won the game. ”
It was indeed a night the Astros badly needed, following one of their worst games of the season – a 9-2 loss on Tuesday for their fourth straight loss. Against lightning rod Trevor Bauer and without designated hitter Yordan Alvarez and outfielder Michael Brantley, the odds were against the Astros.
It didn’t matter to rookie starting pitcher Luis Garcia, who outscored Bauer by throwing a career-high six innings and giving up an unearned run. It didn’t matter for Jose Altuve, who set the tone with a first homer in the first and added a single RBI in the seventh. And that doesn’t matter for Carlos Correa, who blasted a kickoff in the sixth.
“Yesterday was difficult for us,” said Altuve. “It’s very important that we got out tonight and changed things pretty quickly. We scored some points and Luis Garcia, he was amazing today. I’m glad we won this one.
Garcia, who won his third straight start, threw a career-high 100 pitches, 39 in a thin third inning in which he allowed a run but blocked the bases loaded. He was not challenged after that, sending in the last 10 hitters he faced.
“I take every opportunity they give me,” said Garcia, who lowered his ERA to 2.93 and his WHIP to 1.02 in 46 innings. “I take these opportunities every time I go out as a reliever, as a starter. I don’t know if I will stay a starter, but I am ready to go in any situation.
The closed roof of Minute Maid Park echoed the cheers of fans from both teams in one of baseball’s most intense rivalries – a rivalry that dates back to the days of the National League West in the 1970s and 1980s and has culminated with the Astros’ triumph in the 2017 World Series – a title called into question two years later when the sign-theft scandal rocked the sport.
“It was great tonight to be able to get this one,” Correa said. “Obviously last night we didn’t play the way we wanted. It was one of the worst games we’ve played all year, and we had to come back today and get it right and go play, and we did. We had a great victory tonight.
The Astros insist their goal was to try and fight their way through a growing losing streak and injury streak, but deep down they couldn’t stand the thought of the Dodgers – and thousands of their clothed fans. of blue – leaving Houston waving brooms as a result. a two-game sweep.
“It was a close game all night,” said Baker, the former Dodgers star who played 105 games in the Astrodome during his career. “You hardly saw anyone running down the aisle or going to the bathroom. It was very fun. This is how I remember Houston.
The Astros and Dodgers will entangle again in August in Los Angeles in front of fans for the first time since the sign-theft scandal erupted in 2019, a streak that looks to be even more intense. The Astros-Dodgers rivalry rages on.
“A lot of people have said a lot of things, and that doesn’t mean we go out there every day and try to win because of what they said,” Correa said. “It doesn’t matter to us. ”