HOUSTON — All that mattered to Astros manager Dusty Baker was that his team found a way to win a game Wednesday night, which pushed the club one step closer to clinching the American League West title and provided good vibes heading into an off-day.
A closer look reveals that the Astros played far from their best game, botching a double steal attempt in the third inning, having a player doubled off first base in the seventh and being held to four hits — so it was only fitting that the winning run came across in the 10th inning on a wild pitch.
Texas reliever Jonathan Hernández bounced a slider that skipped away from catcher Sam Huff, allowing Jose Altuve to dart home from third base and give the Astros a 4-3 victory, sealing a series win in their final game against their intrastate rivals in 2022.
The Rangers issued a pair of intentional walks to get to Alex Bregman, who had a front-row seat as Altuve dashed home on the wild pitch. It was the first time the Astros won on a walk-off wild pitch since beating these same Rangers on May 14, 2021.
“That was a weird one,” Baker said. “That’s what you call an ugly win. We’ll take it. A win’s a win. In the big leagues, the hardest thing to do is to win.”
With that, the Astros improved to 88-49, keeping pace with the 2019 club that set the franchise wins mark (107) for the best record through 137 games. Houston reduced its magic number to win the American League West to 14 with its victory and Seattle’s loss to the White Sox.
“Any win’s nice,” right fielder Kyle Tucker said. “They pitched really well and played really well. All three games were close. It’s huge to win the series, especially with an off-day [coming up]. It’s nice to have a win going into that.”
The Astros are five games ahead of the Yankees (83-54) for the top seed in the AL and own the tiebreaker after winning five of seven regular-season meetings against the Bronx Bombers. Houston is sitting pretty in its playoff positioning, a situation that can sometimes lead to complacency on the field in September — especially against teams like the Rangers, who have lost 10 of their last 11 games.
“I don’t think we look at it like that,” Tucker said. “We try to come out and win as many games as possible. You never know what’s going to happen at the end of the year, so we just try to come out and play well each game. We don’t settle because we’re up however many games. Fans still want to come out and watch us play hard. We just try to come out and win as many games as possible and play as hard as we can.”
Tucker did his part to help the Astros avoid dropping consecutive games against the Rangers for the first time since May 2021 when he blasted a two-run, game-tying homer in the sixth inning. The homer, which came off lefty John King, made him the sixth player in club history to have 24 homers and 22 steals in a season.
“He threw me a first-pitch sinker that I fouled off and another one middle-in, and he left it up a little bit and I was able to get to it,” Tucker said. “To tie the game there was huge. [Bregman] had a nice walk in front of me for me to have that opportunity.”
The Astros’ bullpen threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit. That included two innings from Bryan Abreu and a scoreless 10th from Héctor Neris, whose diving grab off the mound to catch a Bubba Thompson bunt attempt for the first out helped Houston keep the Rangers’ automatic runner from advancing.
“I saw the ball fly close to me and I gave it a chance,” Neris said. “I said, ‘Let me get the out,’ because it was important. I didn’t think anything more.”
“I’m glad that Neris made that great play on the bunt,” Baker said. “Like I said, right now we’re scratching and clawing for everything that we can get.”