Thursday's Tampa Bay Rays-Houston Astros game was one of those where you thought one thing would happen, then it didn't, then it did. Entertaining, frustrating, nerve-racking, crazy, ups and downs--all those emotions had to have come out if you're a fan of either team.
This game was so crazy that both teams used up all their mound visits by the middle of the eighth inning! And as the game got into the late innings, after nine lead changes, with the Rays holding a 9-7 lead, you still didn't really know who would come out on top until the final out was made. And in the end, it was the Rays who won this war of attrition, disguised as a baseball game, 9-8 over the Astros.
The Rays were looking to put an end to their four-game losing streak against the centerpiece of the biggest 2019 deadline-day deal in Houston Astros' starter Zack Greinke. And history was against the Rays, as the last time they had actually scored a run against Greinke was in 2012--seven seasons ago!
And even though that streak ended Thursday, what came out of Thursday's nervy game was what looked to be the collapse of the Rays' pitching staff as they gave up three runs on bases-loaded walks. But Emilio Pagan pitched an old-school game in relief, throwing two and a third innings of one-run ball to close the door on the Astros, and give the Rays a win they desperately needed.
Greinke's streak lasted into the second inning, when the Rays put up a run on an RBI single by Travis d'Arnaud. They then added three more off Greinke on mammoth homers by Meadows and d'Arnaud to give the Rays a 4-2 lead in the fourth.
The feeling prevailed that this would not be such an easy win for the Rays, as evidenced by prior games, including Wednesday night's 8-6 Astros win where the Rays gave up two leads, including a 3-0 lead in the fourth.
And, true to script, the Astros would come back over the next two innings, scoring a solo run in the fourth on one of those bases-loaded walks, as Trevor Richards could not make an easy throw to first on a tapper back to the mound by Josh Reddick, giving Houston extra life. In came Chaz Roe, who issued that walk to George Springer, making it a 4-3 game.
Then in the fifth, Colin Poche, the Houston native pitching for the first time in front of family and friends, lost all control. He sandwiched two outs between three walks, and then walked Robinson Chirinos and Reddick with the bases loaded to give the Astros a 5-4 lead.
The Rays tied the game in the sixth, as d'Arnaud, the hitting star for the Rays Thursday after a miserable month of August, drove in Ji-Man Choi, who led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on an Avi Garcia groundout.
The Astros weren't done, either, as Jose Altuve sent the first pitch of the bottom of the sixth by Nick Anderson over the center field wall, allowing the Astros to regain the lead. Altuve's homer was the first run Anderson has given up as a member of the Rays since the trade-deadline deal with the Marlins.
Back-and-forth they went, as the Rays took the lead for good in the seventh, and it all started with a Matt Duffy single. Austin Meadows doubled Duffy to third, then Tommy Pham drove in Duffy with the tying run, as Pham took second on a misplay by Astros left fielder Yordan Alvarez. Then Choi came up and drove in both Meadows and Pham with a long double over the head of Astros center fielder Springer.
The Astros got a run back in the 7th, as Reddick drove in Abraham Toro, who had walked with one out, to cut the Rays' lead to 8-7.
The Rays got that run back in the eighth as Matt Duffy scored on a fielder's choice by Austin Meadows. Duffy had walked with one out and advanced to third on an Eric Sogard single.
The Astros cut the deficit to one in the ninth on a solo homer by Toro, the first of his career.
Pagan then settled in and struck out Chrinos and Reddick, the latter being ejected after arguing the called third strike. Pagan then got Springer to fly out to Meadows, and the Rays could breathe a sigh of relief.
*d'Arnaud had his best offensive game since July, going 3-for-5 with four RBIs.
*Meadows' homer in the third was his team-leading 24th; d'Arnaud's two-run shot in the fourth was his 14th.
*The win went to Jose De Leon, his first, as he held the fort until Pagan's appearance in the seventh. Chris Devenski took the loss for the Astros.
*The Rays return home Friday for a big series against the Cleveland Indians in a battle for wild card positioning. The Indians will go with Shane Bieber (12-6, 3.23 ERA). The Rays have yet to name a starter. Game time at the Trop is set for 7:10 p.m.