If this is a playoff preview, we’re in for a treat.
The AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles hosted the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros on Tuesday in a matchup of two of baseball’s best teams. The Orioles went into the ninth inning holding a 6-3 lead. But Kyle Tucker was there to spoil it for a stunning 7-6 Astros win.
The Astros loaded the bases against closer Félix Bautista at the top of the inning, and Tucker took the batter’s box as the go-ahead run with one out. The Astro’s right fielder took two strikes to dig an 0-2 hole. Bautista then threw two balls to even the count. From there, Tucker fouled off four straight Bautista offerings. Tucker then launched a 100-mph fastball into the right-center field bleachers to give the Astros a 7-6 lead on the ninth pitch of the at-bat.
Closer Ryan Pressly sealed the deal with a 1-2-3 bottom half of the inning to secure the Astros’ win and send the home-team fans home disappointed.
Astros get the best of All-Star Orioles closer
The ninth-inning breakdown was a rare misstep for Bautista, who entered Tuesday with a 0.85 ERA and tied with Cleveland’s Emmanuel Clase for the AL lead with 30 saves. But the heart of the potent Astros order got the best of him.
Bautista started the inning by walking pinch hitter Jon Singleton on six pitches. Leadoff hitter Jose Altuve then looped an 0-1 fastball into left field to put men at first and second.
Bautista then settled down to strike out Alex Bregman on three pitches for the first out of the inning. But Yordan Álvarez launched a 1-2 fastball deep to the centerfield wall on the next at-bat. The ball was playable, but center fielder Jorge Mateo couldn’t make the grab. It bounced off the wall and onto the warning track for a loud single. Astros runners held their ground in anticipation of an out.
The Astros ended up with the bases loaded instead of scoring on the play. But no harm for Houston. It just set up Tucker for his game-winning heroics in one of the most dramatic at-bats of the season.
Tucker finished the night 2 for 5 at the plate with a walk, one home run, five RBI, and two runs scored. Yainer Díaz and Jeremy Peña accounted for the other two Astro’s RBI. Bautista, meanwhile, saw his ERA balloon from 0.85 to 1.52 on one swing.
But the All-Star closer may get another shot against Houston. Tuesday’s game was the first of a three-game series that runs through Thursday.